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Azul’s Rio employees celebrated the new operations along with airline executives. (Photo: AirlineGeeks

Azul Starts ‘Ponte Aérea’ Shuttle Between Rio and São Paulo

Last Thursday, Azul started services on the “Ponte Aérea” shuttle connecting São Paulo (Congonhas) to Rio (Santos Dumont), the most premium route in Latin America, with 16 daily flights each way. The new operations saw a big celebration at both airports.

The event counted with the presence of Azul’s executives such as the CEO, John Rodgerson, the CFO, Alex Malfitani, and Jason Ward, EVP for people and customers. Both check-in areas were decorated with balloons, and all Azul exmployees were wearing a celebration t-shirt.

Azul’s check-in area in Congonhas airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | João Machado)

The first flight between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro had a special number: AZU1. It was operated by PR-AXJ, an Embraer 195 named “O Sul é Azul” (the South is Azul), with about all of the 118 seats occupied. Azul is the first airline to use an Embraer on the Ponte Aérea since VARIG/Rio-Sul used the ERJ-145 in the early 2000s.

PR-AXJ in the gate before the inaugural flight. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | João Machado)

All passengers recieved a special tag celebrating the startup of the operations. Also, four lucky people won prizes that were drawn during the flight.

Azul’s tag celebrating the start of their “Ponte Aérea” flights. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | João Machado)

During the flight, CEO John Rodgerson made a quick speech and then passed seat by seat asking the passengers for suggestions and complaints, as he does every flight.

In the final stages of the flight, the PA system played one of Tom Jobim’s classic songs, the “Samba do Avião” (Plane Samba). A perfect, well-thought touch before arriving in Rio de Janeiro.

Upon the scenic arrival in Santos Dumont airport – it wasn’t a one-off, this is the regular landing procedure there -, the local firefighter squad received PR-AXJ with the traditional water salute.

After that, Azul had a coffee break for members of the press. There, John Rodgerson spoke a little bit about the operations, as well as the future of the airline. It is important to mention Embraer will deliver the first E195-E2 to the airline on September 12.

“There’s a lot of people that still doesn’t know Azul and our strenght in the rest of the country, because they only think of Rio and São Paulo. But there will be someone who’ll fly with us today and will say: ‘whoa, the product is so good, I will fly with them to Portugal, I will fly with them to the inland cities’, so they’ll fly a lot more with us, just because the discovered us through the Ponte Aérea,” said the American executive.

The airline expects to start using the Airbus A320neo on the route in October. This month, the main runway of Santos Dumont airport is closed down for maintenance, which impedes aircraft bigger than the Embraer 195 to operate profitably there, hence blocking GOL and LATAM, which moved their flights to Rio/Galeão Airport. After that, Azul will face much more competition.

João Machado
João Machado
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