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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Will Azul Ever Take Delivery Of The Airbus A350?

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The Brazilian carrier Azul Linhas Aereas has had a standing order for four Airbus A350-900 since 2014, but so far, it hasn’t received any aircraft of the widebody family. That could change in the next few months, according to local reports. Let’s investigate further.

Airbus A350-900 XWB
Azul showed interest in the Airbus A350, and even signed a deal for the type, but never received any aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Azul’s interest in the A350

On November 28, 2014, AerCap Holdings announced it had signed a lease agreement with Azul for 20 Airbus A320neos and five A350s.

Initially, AerCap expected to deliver the A350s between 2017 and 2018. At that time, David Neeleman, founder of Azul, said,

“Azul is an airline that truly serves all of Brazil. With more than 100 destinations, Azul will soon offer even more seats on our long-haul flights, allowing us to reduce operating costs.”

Nevertheless, that never happened. Azul currently has a fleet of 152 aircraft, including 11 Airbus A330 (seven A330-200 and four A330-900N).

There was never a public announcement why Azul didn’t take the A350. Eventually, the airplanes that were supposed to go to Azul ended up with Hainan Airlines, according to local media outlet Aeroin.

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Is Azul now willing to take the A350s?

Despite the lack of interest from Azul in taking the Airbus A350 order, that could change shortly. First of all, Airbus still registers Azul’s order for four A350-900 in its order & deliveries book.

Then, reports by media outlets state that Azul is targeting to operate the A350 during the second half of 2022. Simple Flying reached out to Azul; the airline declined to comment regarding this topic. Azul is set to have its investors call on November 11; most likely, there could be an update on the subject on that date.

Will Azul Ever Take Delivery Of The Airbus A350?
Azul has a long-haul fleet of A330 aircraft. Photo: Airbus.

Would the A350 serve Azul?

The long-haul market is far from recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Brazil’s international numbers are currently a fraction of what they were a couple of years ago. Incredibly, Brazil’s leading international operator is currently Copa Airlines.

Nevertheless, Azul Linhas Aereas is a bright spot in the country, recovering its pre-pandemic traffic faster than GOL and LATAM. It hasn’t bounced back to profitability, but it is only a matter of time.

In terms of international connectivity using its long-haul fleet, Azul is currently offering 78 flights. That’s a 74.2% decrease compared to October 2019, when it had 302 flights with its A330 fleet.

Azul is flying from Campinas International Airport to Fort Lauderdale and Lisbon using the A330. Two years ago, it also used the long-haul fleet in routes like Belo Horizonte-Orlando, Recife-Fort Lauderdale, Recife-Orlando, Campinas-Orlando, and Campinas-Oporto.

In that sense, Azul could benefit from renewing its long-haul fleet and setting up for the future. Its A330-200 fleet, composed of seven units, has an average age of 19.5 years old. Meanwhile, Azul’s fleet average age is only seven years old.

In March, during an interview, Azul’s CEO, John Rodgerson, said that the carrier “will not receive the A350 without taking the A330.” While that statement is cryptic, it could point to one conclusion, Azul could be planning to retire its A330-200 fleet.

Azul’s A330-200 fleet has a capacity to carry 271 passengers in three classes: 151 in economy, 100 in economy plus, and 20 in business. The A350-900 could up-gauge Azul’s capacity, as it accommodates between 300 and 350 passengers in a standard three-class configuration.

Would you love to see the A350 with Azul’s livery? Let us know in the comments.

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