Brazil's carriers recorded an 18% leap in domestic traffic in 2009 driven by rapid growth in the low-cost sector.

New data from Brazil's ANAC show that the country's airlines collectively flew 56.3 billion RPKs in 2009, an 18% increase compared with 2008. Capacity for the year was up 15.4% to 84.3 billion ASKs, resulting in an average load factor of 66.8%.

The jump in traffic was driven by the launch of Azul as well as more expansion at Brazil's largest low-cost carrier, Gol, and fast growth at another low-cost carrier, Webjet.

Azul flew 2.1 billion RPKs, giving the carrier a 3.8% share of the market. The carrier, backed and established by former JetBlue CEO David Neeleman, launched in December 2008. It ended the year with an industry-leading 79.7% load factor.

Webjet ended the year with a 4.5% share of Brazil's domestic market. The carrier flew 2.5 billion RPKs in 2009, a 114% increase compared to 2008. But its load factor only improved marginally from 66.9% to 67.1%.

Gol recorded a 15% growth in domestic RPKs to 23.3 billion, giving it 41.4% of the total market. Gol's capacity was only up 7% as lower fares helped the carrier improve its average load factor from 62.4% to 66.9%

Legacy carrier TAM remained the market leader but lost significant market share to the low-cost players. TAM flew 25.7 billion RPKs in 2009, a 6% increase over 2008, giving it a 45.6% share of the domestic market. It was the only large Brazilian carrier to see its load factor drop in 2009, slipping from 68.2% to 65.8%.

Brazil's fifth largest carrier, Ocean Air, flew 1.4 billion RPKs in 2009, a 7% increase over 2008. The sister carrier to Colombia's Avianca captured 2.5% of Brazil's domestic market and had an average load factor of 71.2%, up from 67.9% in 2008.

Regional carrier TRIP was another fast grower, recording a 57% increase in RPKs to 845,000. TRIP captured 1.5% of the market and saw its load factor slip from 63.4% to 60.5%.

Several much smaller regional carriers accounted for the remaining less than 1% of the market.

A majority of the growth in Brazil occurred in the second half. In the first half RPKs were up by only 3% and for a few months traffic was actually down on a month-over-month basis. The biggest increase was recorded in October when RPKs surged by 42%.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news