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TAP and Azul studying joint venture

TAP Portugal and Brazil's Azul are working on a joint venture so the two airlines can collaborate on pricing of transatlantic flights between Europe and Brazil.

"We want to get to full co-operation," TAP chief commercial officer Trey Urbahn tells FlightGlobal on the sidelines of the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit.

Urbahn says a joint venture will allow the two airlines to co-operate on pricing and capacity. The two carriers already have a codeshare and want to collaborate further on joint procurement of aircraft and fuel.

A joint venture will further seal the relationship between TAP and Azul, who share common ownership links through Azul founder David Neeleman. Neeleman is a shareholder of Atlantic Gateway, which owns a 45% stake in TAP's holding company.

Since Atlantic Gateway bought into TAP in late-2015, the airline has embarked on a fleet renewal process and is transforming its European operations into a low-cost operation.

Azul's former president Antonoaldo Neves also recently moved to TAP, where he is now a member of the board. Urbahn says Neves will likely succeed TAP's chief executive Fernando Pinto.

"Antonoaldo is Fernando's logical successor," says Urbahn, who was chief revenue officer at Azul before he moved to his current position at TAP.

Atlantic Gateway's 45% stake in TAP's holding company was negotiated down from an initial 61% share, after a change in Portugal's government in late-2015.

Urbahn says that Atlantic Gateway retains management control of the day-to-day running of the airline, and that Portugal's government has mostly allowed Atlantic Gateway to do its job.

However, pressure from the Portuguese government has forced TAP to continue serving Venezuela, even as foreign airlines continue to withdraw from the troubled South American country.

TAP now operates its Caracas flights with a stopover in Curacao, to avoid having crews overnight in the Venezuelan capital.

Urbahn acknowledges that the Venezuela flight "doesn't work", but that the airline will likely continue operating the route.

TAP operates thrice-weekly between Lisbon and Caracas, FlightGlobal schedules data show.

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