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Brazil's Azul adds European jets to fleet
by Staff Writers
Rio De Janeiro (UPI) Jul 27, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Brazilian budget airline Azul is adding 10 Italian ATR 72-600 passenger jets to its growing fleet in response to a boom in domestic travel fueled by a strong real and relatively easy access to the cheaper U.S. dollar.

The $227 million deal signaled the first confirmation of Azul's option on 20 of the ATR jets Azul announced when the two sides met at the Farnborough Air Show in England last year.

Travel in and outside Brazil is booming thanks to the rise of a burgeoning middle class, even as huge income disparities persist, especially among the underprivileged native communities and Brazilians of African origin, new data indicated.

Increased travel has prompted the government to beef up security throughout the aviation sector, leading to contracts for a more efficient running of air transport services.

European turboprop manufacturer ATR and Azul are likely to follow up this month's contract with a further agreement as soon as the Brazilian operator can indicate it wants the other 10 aircraft, too.

Deliveries of the first ATR-600 series aircraft for Azul are scheduled to start in October.

Like other ATRs in the airline's fleet, the additional aircraft will be equipped with the newest technological developments that make the ATR -600s the reference in regional aviation, the manufacturer said.

The new avionics suite includes an innovative glass cockpit, redesigned cabin interiors and enhanced engine performance and payload, ATR said.

With the addition of the new aircraft Azul hopes to expand its regional network, adding more destinations.

The ATR has a strong presence in Latin America, with 50 operated by airlines in Brazil and a total of 120 across Latin America

Azul founder and Chairman David Neeleman said the purchase "reinforces our confidence in the product and our partnership with ATR." Azul already has locally manufactured Embraer passenger aircraft in its fleet but has not announced any plans to buy more from the Brazilian aircraft maker.

ATR Chief Executive Officer Filippo Bagnato said Azul's success would help ATR consolidate its presence in the region.

"ATRs are becoming real popular aircraft in Brazil, one of the most dynamic markets around the world," he said. "We are convinced there is a potential to double, in the short term, the total ATR aircraft fleet operating in the country."

The ATR can accommodate up to passenger 74 seats and fly 899 nautical miles with full load. The aircraft has Pratt and Whitney's 127M engine.

Azul is a relatively new airline that began operations in 2008. It has headquarters in Toulouse, France, but is an equal-share joint venture between two major players in the European aviation market, Alenia Aeronautica, a Finmeccanica company, and EADS.

The upsurge in domestic Brazilian travel coincides with growth in overseas travel. More Brazilians are travelling overseas and spending as never before, Central Bank data indicated.

In June Brazilians who went overseas spent $1.4 billion, up 39.9 percent over the same month a year ago. Spending overseas in June and in the first half of 2011 was the highest since the Central Bank began taking records in 1947, the bank said.

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