by Michael Lowrey
Wow. That’s all I can say. Just wow. Was not in any way, shape or form expecting as drastic an increase in flights to Brazil as the new aviation agreement allows.
To recap, easily Brazil’s top aviation market is Sao Paolo (airport code: GRU). The number two market is Rio De Janaeiro (GIG). Then there are a bunch of smaller destinations. The current U.S.-Brazil framework restricts U.S. airlines to 154 flights a week (the equivalent of 22 daily flights) to Brazil. That sounds like a lot, but it’s not. Of the 154, 105 existed before 2008 and are unrestricted, that is to say they can be used to any place in Brazil. The highest and best use for these unrestricted frequencies is of course Sao Paolo, and most but not all used for flights there (some are used for Rio).
In 2008-2010, 49 more weekly flights were approved, but with limitations: 21 were for anywhere except GIG and GRU while, to oversimplify slightly, the other 28 were effectively to anywhere but Sao Paolo.
US Airways won seven frequencies in 2009, which it uses for a daily CLT-GIG flight. To serve Sao Paolo from Charlotte, it agreed to lease seven unrestricted slots from United from January 2011 until spring 2015. The actual start date of this service has recently slipped to Fall 2011.
And then, well, everything changed. The number of U.S.-Brazil flights will now nearly double by October 2014, and there will be no limits at all come October 2015. Specific increases are:
Unrestricted: 14 new weekly frequencies in October 2013 and then another 14 weekly frequencies in October 2014.
All but GRU: 14 additional weekly frequencies a year, available in the Octobers of 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
All but GRU and GIG: 14 additional weekly frequencies available each in the Octobers of 2011, 2012, and 2013 and then 21 weekly frequencies available in October 2014.
So how good are US Airways’ lawyers? Because it looks like they may be paying to lease unrestricted frequencies though spring 2015 that it could obtain for free from October 2013. (It would almost certainly win unrestricted slots then for CLT-GRU.) Unless they included a contingency for such a development in the contract, of course.
Bonus observation: Having route authority to Sao Paolo does not guarantee that an airline can obtain usable landing and takeoff slot times. Completely different issue.