Azul Brazilian Airlines received the first of its four Airbus A350-900 aircraft on September 14. The A350 jet dubbed ’50 também é Azul’ translated as ’50 is also Blue’ arrived at Confins airport, Belo Horizonte, on Wednesday, becoming the first aircraft type to make up the Azul Linhas Aereas A350 fleet. The aircraft is a 4.9-year-old twin-engine widebody jetliner that was first delivered to Hong Kong Airlines on November 29, 2017. Let’s delve further.
Taking delivery of the first A350
On Wednesday, an Airbus A350-900 bound for Belo Horizonte International Airport departed from Tarbes Tarmac Aerosave facility at 11:38 local time. Since August, the aircraft has been in storage at Tabes Airport in Southern France. It finally landed in Belo Horizonte at 16:45 local time after flying for around 10 hours.
The A350-900 jet will undergo a certification process by the Brazilian authorities and receive the registration PR-AOY. It will be transferred to Viracopos International Airport in Campinas, the carrier’s primary maintenance base, for further preparation and will enter service at the end of this year.
The first A350 jet operated under the registration B-LGC for Hong Kong Airlines until February 7, 2020. During two years of operation, the twinjet logged in 9,463 flight hours across 1,602 cycles in the skies.
Airbus A350 in Azul’s fleet renewal plans
The former Hainan Airlines A350 fleet is returning to Azul as the Brazilian carrier is pursuing a fleet renewal plan to replace its older Airbus A330ceo aircraft. Airbus A350 is an integral part of Azul’s fleet to bring more comfort to its customers and more efficiency in terms of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Commenting on the arrival of the first A350, Azul president John Rodgerson said that the modern aircraft would bring a reduction in the cost per seat when compared to the A330ceo jet.
The new A350-900 has a seating capacity of up to 334 passengers and offers a 23% increase in seat capacity as compared to A330ceo, which can accommodate up to 251 or 271 passengers, depending on the aircraft’s configuration. Furthermore, it is a technologically advanced jet and consumes 20% less fuel per seat.
Azul will receive two new generations of Airbus A350 aircraft at the end of this year and replace A330-200s on long-haul international routes. The remaining two jets have partial livery of Azul and are currently in storage in Beijing, China.
Not a brand-new A350
The first A350 aircraft delivered to Azul is not brand-new as it has already operated for Hong Kong Airlines (a subsidiary of China-based Hainan Airlines). Azul had placed an order for 4 A350 widebody jets in 2014 and was set to receive deliveries in 2017. But the Brazilian airline Azul changed its mind and postponed A350 deliveries in favor of the A330-900. The Airbus A330-900 jet replaced the carrier’s older A330-200 and featured lower capacity and lower operating cost.
As jets were already contracted, Chinese group HNA Aviation ended up taking those four wide bodies in 2017. Hainan Airlines had already placed orders for the type directly from Airbus and owned certain shares in Azul at the time. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hainan Airlines suffered financial woes and pulled out of Azul’s management. As air travel came to a near standstill, Hong Kong Airlines stopped operating the A350 fleet in 2020. The type was subsequently transferred to Lourdes-Tarbes airport, an aircraft storage and disposal facility in Southern France, where they spent two years.
Barueri-headquartered Azul Brazilian Airlines will initially deploy the A350 aircraft to perform domestic certification flights to destinations such as Belem, Manaus, Recife, and Fortaleza. After the completion of crew training, the aircraft will operate international flights by the end of this year. Although Azul hasn’t revealed A350’s new destinations, the new jet will likely fly to Orlando, Florida, Fort Lauderdale, and Lisbon.
The current fleet of Azul
At present, Azul operates a humble fleet of 143 aircraft, including 43 A320neo, 4 A321neo, 8 A330-200, 4 A330-900, 33 ATR 72-600, 42 Embraer 195, 7 Embraer 195-E2, and 2 Boeing 737-400SF. The older A330ceos have an average age of 20.4 years and currently operate flights from Campinas Viracopos to Lisbon, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale. As a replacement for these aircraft, the A350 jet will serve similar international long-haul routes and help the carrier restore its pre-pandemic seat capacity.
Azul concentrates its traffic flow through its hubs in Belo Horizonte, Campinas, and Recife to over 140 domestic and international destinations.