Brazilian carrier Gol lost R2.5 billion ($455 million) in the third quarter of 2021 but says increasing vaccination rates and the opening of international borders should boost travel demand in the coming summer holiday season.
Revenue at the Sao Paulo-based low-cost carrier almost doubled to R1.9 billion in the third quarter, up from R975 million in the same three months in pandemic-plagued 2020, the company says on 9 November.
The airline carried 4.9 million customers in the quarter, up 92% year-on-year but still 48.5% less than the number of customers it carried in the comparable 2019 period.
“We put a series of strategic initiatives in place this quarter that will strengthen our market position as the demand for travel continues to rise, the vaccination rate expands and international borders reopen,” Paulo Kakinoff, the company’s chief executive, says. “We see growth in sales through to the end of the year and are confident that the trend will continue into 2022.”
With international travel restrictions only recently lifted in some countries in the Americas, Gol has been careful about reinstating international flying. The airline has not operated any international flights since earlier in the pandemic but plans to resume such flights in the fourth quarter, Kakinoff says.
Gol’s first cross-border flights will be to Uruguay, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Service to the USA, a popular market with Brazilian tourists, will be reinstated by the second quarter of 2022, he adds.
Unfavourable currency exchange rates and visa issues make it difficult for Brazilians to travel to the USA at the moment, Kakinoff says,
“The excitement to resume international trips is contrasted by the important constraints imposed by the exchange rates,” he adds. “Passengers are willing to fly but that trip is quite expensive at the moment. I can’t say there is a boom related to airline tickets to fly to the US.”
The airline expects the pace of its recovery to rise in the fourth quarter, traditionally the beginning of the peak summer holiday travel season in South America. That timing, coupled with high vaccination rates in the country, have spurred Gol to increase capacity for the final three months of the year by 29% over fourth-quarter 2020 capacity.
“To meet expected demand, Gol will have 102 aircraft operating its network at the end of the period, representing 112% of the average fleet in  and up by 36% over the third quarter,” the carrier says.
Gol accelerated its all-Boeing 737 fleet transformation in the third quarter by signing agreements to operate another 28 737 Max 8s, which are scheduled to replace 23 737-800s by the end of 2022. Executives say this will reduce unit costs 8% next year. The Brazilian carrier among Boeing’s top Latin American customers.
“Under the agreements, the company will end 2021 with 28 737 Max 8 aircraft (20% of the total fleet). By the end of 2022, Gol expects to have 44 737 Max 8 aircraft (32% of the total fleet). With current purchase commitments, the company will meet its goal of a 75% 737 Max fleet by 2030,” Kakinoff says.