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Brazil's OceanAir plans 2015 long-haul launch with A350s

Brazil's OceanAir is considering launching long-haul services in 2015, when it expects to take delivery of the first of 10 Airbus A350s ordered by its parent company, the Synergy Group.

Synergy last year placed orders for 10 A350s. At the time neither Synergy nor Airbus specified delivery dates or indicated which of Synergy's airlines would operate the aircraft.

Synergy owns Colombia's Avianca, Ecuador's VIPSA and OceanAir. Only Avianca currently operates widebodies but OceanAir has had ambitions for some time to branch into long-haul routes. Avianca chief executive Fabio Villegas says while OceanAir for now will focus only on domestic services the A350s were ordered "basically for Brazil".

Villegas says Avianca's future widebody is the 787 as it is the ideal aircraft for the Colombian long-haul market while the A350 is more suited for Brazil. Avianca, which currently operates Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s, has 10 787s on order.

"The 787 is better for the Colombian market while the A350 is better for more dense markets like the Brazilian market," Villegas explains. "The A350 is a larger airplane than the 787. The 787 in its regular size is designed to [replace] the 767 while the A350 in my view is more an airplane that will compete with 777s."

OceanAir first unveiled plans in late 2006 to begin operating long-haul services, saying it would launch flights in 2007 to Mexico, Angola, Nigeria and South Africa using a fleet of newly acquired Boeing 767s. While these plans never materialised OceanAir's former management team indicated later in 2007 it was slated to receive seven of the 10 A330s ordered by Avianca to support its plans to launch long-haul services.

But Avianca and Villegas, after taking over management of OceanAir last year, decided to further push back the Brazilian carrier's long-haul expansion plan. Villegas says OceanAir is not currently earmarked to receive any of Avianca's 10 A330s, four of which have already been delivered, and is now looking at launching long-haul services in 2015. Villegas expects OceanAir's first A350 will be delivered in 2015 barring any delays in the programme.

"We are talking about six years ahead. The market knows where we are and what we are doing," Villegas says.

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