Brazilian carrier Azul plans to introduce a second fleet type to join its Embraer 190/195 regional jets, with the first of 20 ATR 72 turboprops joining the airline's fleet in late 2011.
Neeleman stresses that Azul has recognised numerous markets in Brazil with little or no air service that cannot support operations by its E-190/195s. The carrier started seeking a cost-efficient aircraft that allow Azul to bring down airfares and stimulate traffic, he says.
ATR's supremacy in fuel efficiency compared with the aircraft's rival the Bombardier Q400 ultimately drove Azul's selection of the ATR 72-600. Neeleman says Azul does not need the extra six seats in the 76-seat Q400, and claims Azul only needs 25-30 passengers to operate the 70-seat ATR 72-600 efficiently. Azul has taken options for 20 additional aircraft.
Azul has identified 40 Brazilian cities with populations of more than half a million, and Neeleman says half those cities currently have no air service.
His carrier aims to also restore service to communities abandoned by other airlines, he says. "That's what happens when you have a duopoly in a country," says Neeleman, referring to Brazil's two largest carriers Gol and TAM. "It doesn't get the air service it deserves. "Millions of Brazilians out there today don't know they'll soon be flying," Neeleman explains.