by Michael Lowrey
US Airways has finally loaded its schedule for flights to Sao Paulo, Brzail (GRU). Sao Paulo is South America’s largest market and issues with flying there are much like those of serving London Heathrow: even if you can get the route authority, that doesn’t do you much good without decent slot landing and takeoff slot times. And let’s say that US Airways’ GRU slot times leave a lot to be desired.
The best way to see what’s going on is compare the flight times on the Sao Paulo service, which begins on May 5, to the existing flights to Rio de Janeiro (GIG):
CLT out: 5:50p GRU in: 4:30a (+1) GRU out: 8:25a CLT in: 5:25p
CLT out: 10:35p GIG in: 9:20a (+1) GIG out: 10:05p CLT in: 7:20a (+1)
(+1) = next day.
The secret on deep South American routes is that business travelers strongly prefer to fly through the night, allowing them to get some sleep and be productive as soon as they get on the ground. That daylight return from GRU is just wasted time for those sitting in the premium cabin. Getting into Sao Paulo at 4:30am isn’t so great either. US Airways would obviously have liked a later arrival time, then to have the plane sit in GRU all day and have an overnight return. They couldn’t get those slot times, or a parking place for the day. So this is what they’re stuck with. It’s very questionable whether they can make money with those slot times.
Bonus observation: Yes, US Airways may merge with American Airlines, which is the dominate U.S. carrier to south America thanks to its hub in Miami. While US Airways has to put up with poor timing to get into the Sao Paulo market, that isn’t exactly an issue for American. American would either get/give it appropriate slot times or drop the route. There’s no guarantee that the route would make sense even with appropriate slot times. CLT- Rio may not stay either even though it has good slot times.
Also note that the bar for Brazil service goes up with a merger — the old 204-seat Boeing 767-200ERs US Airways uses would soon disappear from the merged carrier’s fleet and the remain aircraft capable of flying the route all are bigger.