Azul to launch ATR 72 service to Uberaba

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Brazilian low-cost carrier Azul has selected Uberaba as its third destination for its new ATR 72 turboprop fleet.

ATI reported earlier this week that Azul had selected Ribeirao Preto and Rio Preto as its first two ATR 72 destinations, with service slated to begin on 1 March.

In a statement yesterday Azul says it has requested authority from Brazil's ANAC to serve Uberaba with two daily flights from its Sao Paulo Campinas base. Azul says the carrier is aiming to begin the route in early April.

Uberaba is a mining town in Minas Gerais state with limited air service. Uberaba is located only 500km north of Sao Paulo, but according to Innovata currently has a one-stop link with Sao Paulo.

TAM regional subsidiary Pantanal currently serves Uberaba with three one-stop daily flights to Sao Paulo Guarulhos via Ribeirao Preto. Regional carrier TRIP also serves Uberaba from Uberlandia and Belo Horizonte. Both Pantanal and TRIP currently operate ATR 42 and 72 turboprops into Uberaba.

Azul's other initial two turboprop routes - Ribeirao Preto and Rio Preto - have significantly more air service including some mainline jet service. Both are located in Sao Paulo state only about 300km north of downtown Sao Paulo.

Azul plans to link Ribeirao Preto and Rio Preto with Campinas, with both routes having five frequencies each weekday with a reduced service on weekends.

According to Innovata, no carrier currently serves Ribeirao Preto or Rio Preto from Campinas. But Ribeirao Preto is served from Sao Paulo Guarulhos by Pantanal as well as regional carrier Passaredo and low-cost Boeing 737 operator Webjet. Both Pantanal and TAM also operate Airbus A320 flights between Ribeirao Preto and Sao Paolo Congonhas.

Pantanal, Passaredo and TRIP currently serve Rio Preto from Guarulhos while TAM serves Rio Preto from Congonhas.

Azul, which currently operates a fleet of 17 Embraer E-190/195s, placed an order last year for 20 ATR 72-600s plus 20 options. These aircraft will be delivered beginning in the second half of this year but in the interim Azul has leased three older model ATR 72-200s.

An Azul spokesman declines to name the leasing company providing these three aircraft or the duration of the leases, saying this information is "confidential at this moment".