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Brazilian Airlines Expect Higher Demand For November Holidays
As Europe plunges into a second wave of COVID-19, putting even more pressure in the local aviation industry, Brazil — at least in that aspect — seems to be in a better situation. The sector expects to register a relatively positive month of November, with a boost provided by two long weekends.
The upbeat forecast was bolstered by the country’s Ministry of Tourism earlier this week. The government branch said the next feriadão, as extended weekends are called in Brazil, on Nov. 2, should move “more than a million travelers” across the entire country. This, according to the Ministry, represents 40% more than traveled over the October 12 holiday.
While Brazil never truly left the first wave of the novel coronavirus behind, the number of total cases and deaths has been slowly declining since July. With a sense of “normality” seemingly adopted by the returning passengers despite the millions of COVID-19 cases in the country, the recovery of domestic air transport started to kick into gear in May after a historically low month in April.
Amongst the busiest terminals in the country during the Nov. 2 holiday are Viracopos/Campinas, with an estimated 134,000 passengers; Brasília, with 127,000; and São Paulo/Congonhas, with 96,600 travelers expected.
This follows an intense fight by airlines to bring back consumer confidence in the industry. Less than two weeks ago, the three CEOs of Brazil’s three major airlines — Azul, GOL and LATAM Brasil — took part in a presential summit promoted by the Brazilian Association of Corporate Travel Agencies (ABRACORP) as a continuation of these efforts.
“Paradoxically, [the demand recovery] happens in the leisure sector,” said GOL’s CEO, Paulo Kakinoff. “I say paradoxically because the logic seems to be inverted over the weekends. Every worry that exists during the week [regarding COVID] is apparently abandoned when people are more relaxed and, in practice, what we have been seeing is that the trip does not bring any kind of increased risk.”
Following the continued growth of demand, the three airlines are growing their respective networks for November. Azul will operate 629 flights in peak days versus 505 at the beginning of October, while GOL ended the past month with 500 — 100 more than when it started. LATAM Brasil intends to operate 337 flights compared to October’s 274.
“For us, the big kick-off was September 7th [a national holiday in Brazil],” said John Rodgerson, CEO of Azul, to NeoFeed. “Thank God it was very sunny that weekend. In that weekend, Brazilians decided ‘I did my part, quarantined and now I’m free.'”
In Brazil, Nov. 20 represents Black Awareness Day, another extended holiday in a number of major cities in Brazil, including São Paulo. This holiday is expected to keep the recovery of the travel industry in Brazil ongoing, provided that national COVID-19 trends don’t worsen.
The greatest challenge, now that leisure demand is finally picking up consistently, is starting to think about bringing the corporate travelers back. Azul’s outspoken Rodgerson said during the ABRACORP forum that the airlines must actively go after these valuable customers.
“I will say that there is a bank that is traveling five times as much as the other banks,” he said. “I think this bank will go forward and will steal market share! So this is something. I am reaching out to the other banks, that are not traveling, [and saying], ‘Stay alert! Your competitor is visiting your customers and you will end up behind!'”
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