Brazil's Gol has placed into charter service one of its previously grounded Boeing 767s and is considering re-activating more 767s as it expands its new Caribbean network.

A Gol spokeswoman says the carrier is currently operating three weekly charter flights using a Varig-branded 767-300ER. These flights, which were launched over the last two months, are on the Sao Paulo-Cancun, Buenos Aires-Manaus-Cancun and Buenos Aires-Manaus-Punta Cana routes.

Gol stopped flying 767s in 2008 after terminating all long-haul services. The carrier has since been trying to negotiate early lease returns for its 767 fleet, which it only acquired in 2007 after deciding to expand into long-haul services using its then newly acquired Varig unit.

Gol, which initially acquired 14 767s on long-term leases, has gradually been able to reduce its 767 fleet to five aircraft. Gol CEO Constantino de Oliveira Junior in November first flagged up the idea of reactivating some of its remaining 767s for charter services, explaining that "there's been a very strong demand in the charter business to the Caribbean for the high season".

The Gol spokeswoman says one 767-300ER, registered PR-VAB and leased from AWAS, has since been reactivated and the carrier is now looking at how many 767s it will need for its Northern Hemisphere summer schedule. She says Gol only intends to use 767s on charters and will not return the aircraft to scheduled service.

Gol is now in the process of finalising its Caribbean schedule for the Northern Hemisphere summer season, which begins in late March. The schedule will likely include additional Caribbean flights using a mix of 737s and 767s but the spokeswoman says it is too early to provide details.

Gol began operating services to the Caribbean in July 2009 using Boeing 737NGs. The carrier initially offered charter flights to Aruba, Curacao and the Dominican Republic with one of its Aruba flights transitioning to a scheduled service in October.

The spokeswoman says Gol is currently operating six weekly Boeing 737-800 flights to the Caribbean. These include three Varig-branded weekly flights to Punta Cana from Sao Paulo via Caracas, one Varig-branded weekly flight to Aruba from Sao Paulo via Caracas, one weekly Gol-branded flight to Saint Maarten from Sao Paulo via Belem and one weekly Gol-branded flight on a Brasilia-Curacao-Aruba-Curacao-Brasilia triangular routing. The flights that operate via Caracas operate as an extension of Gol's Varig-branded Sao Paulo-Caracas scheduled flights.

All of Gol's Caribbean flights are now operated as charters with the exception of the Aruba flight via Caracas. Operating Caracas-Aruba as a scheduled flight gives Gol the ability to pick up passengers in Venezuela for the short hop to Aruba. On all the Punta Cana flights Gol mixes Caribbean-bound charter passengers on the Sao Paulo-Caracas leg with scheduled Caracas-bound passengers but on the Caracas-Punta Cana it can only carry the Caribbean-bound charter passengers.

Gol could potentially expand its Caribbean operation by extending more of its Varig-branded Sao Paulo-Caracas flights and some of its Varig-branded Sao Paulo-Bogota flights. Reports from Saint Maarten, for example, indicate that Gol earlier this month forged a deal with the island's tourism commission for a second weekly frequency which would be operated via Bogota starting in late March. Gol declined to comment.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news