US Airways hopes for Sao Paulo schedule improvements

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US Airways hopes to shift its planned Sao Paulo Guarulhos flights to an optimal night-night operation within a year of launch, say executives.

"[The slots] are not optimal in any way but allow us to transition to what we want," says Andrew Nocella, senior vice-president of marketing and planning at the Tempe, Arizona-based carrier, at a media event in Tempe on 24 April. "We need slots to fly overnight both ways."

US Airways will begin flights between Charlotte and Sao Paulo on 8 June, with a southbound departure at 17:50 arriving at Guarulhos at 04:30 the next day. The northbound flight will depart at 08:25 and arrive at 17:25.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines operate the majority of flights between Brazil and the USA overnight in both directions, which maximises connections and is preferred by travellers.

Nocella says that with just one flight in the market US Airwas needs the night-night schedule in order to maximise revenues on the route.

US Airways has had the required frequencies to serve Sao Paulo since 2010 but was unable to acquire operationally feasible slots at Guarulhos until last year.

Nocella calls the previous slots that the airline was offered "unfliable".

US Airways has also applied for 14 unrestricted US-Brazil frequencies that will become available in October 2014 in order to maintain its Charlotte-Sao Paulo flight and to launch a Philadelphia-Sao Paulo flight with the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

The DOT has 14 unrestricted frequencies available this October and 14 in October 2014. American and Delta have also applied for the frequencies.

Slot availability at Guarulhos may improve soon. The airport is undergoing a Brazilian reais (R) 2.9 billion ($1.45 billion) expansion of its terminal facilities that will include a new terminal three and add 42 new parking positions to the airport. The first phase is scheduled to open ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup next year.

Nocella says that he expects the expansion to allow US Airways to retime its Charlotte-Sao Paulo flight and receive competitive slots for its proposed Philadelphia-Charlotte flight.

US Airways proposed merger with American could also impact the airline's service to Guarulhos. Fort Worth-based American has the largest number of flights to the airport - 42 per week - of any US carrier, which would allow the retiming of flights to Charlotte possible within its existing portfolio of slots.

American and US Airways cannot discuss joint scheduling until after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) grants them antitrust immunity, which is expected in September.