United and Azul become interline partners

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United Airlines and Brazil's Azul have signed an interline agreement, in a move that will help boost the US carrier's reach into Brazil with TAM's impending departure from the Star Alliance.

The agreement will allow United to sell flights operated by Azul to the Brazilian airline's over 100 domestic destinations from today. Passengers travelling on Azul's network will have their baggage checked through to the final destination.

Azul's director of planning and alliances Marcelo Bento says the deal will open up more destinations to United customers arriving at Sao Paulo Guarulhos and Rio de Janeiro Galeão airports. Azul expects passenger traffic growth and an increased brand awareness of the airline as potential benefits of the agreement, says Bento.

United has been seeking a partner in Brazil, with TAM leaving Star in March 2014. Schedules show that United operates 42 flights a week to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Star is set to fill some of the void in Brazil left behind by TAM when Avianca Brazil becomes a member of the alliance this year. However, Avianca Brazil holds a significantly smaller market share than TAM, and observers have said more needs to be done to restore Star's presence in the world's third largest domestic market.

The deal with United is Azul's third interline agreement. The airline signed its first late last year with TAP Portugal and also has an interline agreement with Etihad Airways.