News SpotlightUnited Airlines Takes Stake in Azul
By Rochelle Broder-Singer
U.S.-based United Airlines will acquire a 5% stake in Azul Brazilian Airlines as part of a strategic partnership that will include codesharing and joint loyalty program participation.
Azul is Brazil’s third-largest airline, with 17% market share. United has lacked a strong Brazilian partner since TAM left the Star Alliance, of which it is a member, last year. TAM’s departure from the alliance paved the way for Avianca Brazil to join later this month, and other Brazilian airlines can be invited to join Star. However, Azul has not indicated an interest in joining the alliance.
Codesharing will be the first evidence travelers see of the partnership. Pending regulatory approval, United codes will begin appearing on Azul flights from Sao Paulo-Guarulhos to other cities in Brazil, as well as on Azul’s flights to Florida. Azul’s code would go on United flights throughout North America and the Caribbean.
An expanded frequent flier loyalty agreement will give United MileagePlus and Azul TodoAzul members the ability to earn and redeem miles on both airlines.
Industry watchers believe the codeshare will be the first step towards a deeper partnership in the future, especially after the full open skies agreement between Brazil and the United States takes effect in mid-October.
United will invest US$100 million in Azul; the deal also gives United a seat on Azul’s board.
Azul Brazilian Airlines by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz via Wikimedia Commons