Brazilian domestic carrier Azul today inaugurated Embraer E-Jet service from Viracopos airport in Campinas to Salvador de Bahia.

The event marks founder David Neeleman's fourth airline launch. Neeleman helped develop WestJet and Morris Air before founding New York JFK-based JetBlue Airways.

"Having been born in Brazil, it's so exciting to be able to start a new airline in my other home," says Neeleman.

Azul's strategy is to operate a mixture of 106-seat Embraer 190s and 118-seat Embraer 195s on point-to-point routes that will bypass congested hubs in Brazil.


 Above: Azul's first E-195 delivery
Viracopos in Campinas, for example, is located 62 miles (99km) from the city of Sao Paulo. A second flight today leaves Viracopos to Porto Alegre, in Brazil's southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul.

Azul will operate two daily roundtrips on each route, increasing in the coming weeks to five daily roundtrips.

The carrier's launch fleet this month will comprise three E-195s and two E-190s, the latter of which are being leased from JetBlue. Another three aircraft will be added next month to introduce nonstop service to both Vitoria and Curitiba on 14 January.

Azul in 2009 intends to grow to serve 25 cities throughout Brazil with 16 aircraft.

The airline will continue to receive an additional aircraft every month for three years to operate 36 aircraft by the end of 2011.

Azul's E-Jets are configured so that the first five rows of each cabin will boast a 34in seat pitch, while the remaining seats will offer a 31in pitch. Like JetBlue, Azul intends to offer live satellite television to monitors at every seat. However, this will not be accomplished until the end of 2009, says Azul.

JetBlue subsidiary LiveTV is supplying the service through a partnership with Sky Brazil. LiveTV VP of marketing and sales Mike Moeller recently revealed that an antenna to support the system on Azul's aircraft has been selected, although a vendor announcement has not yet been made. LiveTV admits it is contributing to the design.

Neeleman is optimistic that Azul will fill a need in Brazil for low-fares air travel. "There is tremendous unsatisfied leisure demand for airline seats because fares are too high. As a result, 150 million people travel by long distance bus," he says.

"And business travelers suffer circuitous routings and lack of frequency. With only 40% fewer seats per aircraft, we can provide more frequent and direct service in markets that our competition can't economically serve."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news