ALTA: Gol to begin aircraft transfer to WebJet next month

Rio de Janeiro
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Brazilian low-cost carrier Gol will begin transferring aircraft to WebJet, which it is in the process of acquiring, from next month onwards in the first step of a fleet renewal plan for WebJet.

WebJet currently operates 24 Boeing 737-300s, which Gol has said it would phase out gradually. Next month, Gol will transfer a 737-800 to WebJet, Gol's CEO Constantino de Oliveira told Airline Business Daily.

This will be followed by more aircraft transfers in 2012 to replace half of WebJet's current fleet, he added. Oliveira foresees that WebJet's entire fleet would be renewed in 2013 to 2014.

"We don't need to rush to renew the fleet," he said, pointing out that WebJet's 737-300s are "reliable" and still meeting operating requirements.

Gol first announced its intention to acquire WebJet in July, but the acquisition is still subject to the approval of Brazil's anti-trust authority CADE.

Until then, the two airlines must operate independently. However, the transfer of aircraft from Gol to WebJet is allowed and does not contravene any regulations, Oliveira said.

It is not known when Gol's purchase of WebJet will be cleared by CADE, but Oliveira is hopeful that the approval will come in the first half of 2012, adding that it is unlikely to happen by end-2011.

In the meantime, Gol's management has not made a decision on whether it will retain WebJet's branding when it closes on the acquisition, said Oliveira.

Even with the planned purchase of WebJet, Gol does not plan to grow its capacity significantly in 2012, citing a 4% maximum capacity growth in its recent earnings call.

Oliveira said the carrier would try to keep capacity growth as flat as possible to improve revenues, pointing out that higher costs from fuel and inflation would put pressure on yields.

Despite plans to expand with the WebJet acquisition, Oliveira does not plan to seek membership to any global airline alliance anytime soon. This is despite talk that Brazil's TAM might exit Star Alliance due to its merger with Oneworld carrier LAN, creating a need for a Brazilian member in Star.

"It is not in our plan to join any alliance, we plan to keep Gol independent," said Oliveira.