Azul eyes Florida and New York in the USA

Washington DC
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Brazil's Azul has targeted Florida and New York for its first international service to the USA, and has begun talks with Fort Lauderdale International airport.

The airline also plans to approach Miami International airport, says Azul's head of brand, culture and communication Gianfranco Beting.

"Any sort of incentives from airports or authorities will obviously move the needle," he tells Flightglobal. Fort Lauderdale International airport did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Azul's plans.

Azul announced on 23 April that it will acquire five Airbus A350s and six A330s on leases to begin its first international flights by early 2015.

"In the last few years, there's been a trend of Brazilian families moving to south Florida," says Beting. "We decided to fly where the customers want to go."

Azul could possibly partner with other international carriers, but no plans have been firmed up yet, he adds. Azul and New York-based JetBlue Airways share a common founder in David Neeleman, and JetBlue is steadily growing its presence at Fort Lauderdale as it uses the airport to grow flights into Latin America and the Caribbean.

Beting says Azul will certainly look at JetBlue as a possible partner, but stresses: "At the moment there's nothing solid."

The Brazilian carrier also became interline partners with United Airlines earlier this year. United operates a hub at Newark Liberty International airport, which serves the greater New York area.

Azul had previously expressed interest in launching flights to other South American countries such as Argentina, and Beting says this remains on the carrier's agenda despite it choosing to launch international service with US-bound flights.

"That hasn't changed," says Beting. However, he notes that it would be difficult right now for Azul to launch service to Argentina, as competitors TAM and Gol are operating with all the rights available under the Brazil-Argentina bilateral air transport agreement.

Beting also points out that Argentina's ongoing protectionism of Argentinian carriers Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral makes it difficult for new entrants to launch service to the country.