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Brazilian air carriers

March 2005 Update.
VASP is nearly broken. They failed to pay taxes and debts, most of their airplanes were arrested. The Courts are still to decide about VASp bankruptcy (much like the case of Transbrasil), but for all practical purposes the company is already broken.
VARIG seems to be going the same way. VARIG has enormous debts due, and the high interest rates in Brazil cause the debt to increase by the day. VARIG was always an international symbol of Brazilian airlines, and has many sympathizers in the government; special attention is being given to Varig (the government is the main creditor), but the debts and the lack of efficiency seem to indicate that the company will be sold either to TAM or other international company.
In 2005, the largest company is TAM, and the fastest growing is GOL.

There are four major Brazilian air carriers:
Varig the oldest company, operates most international routes
TAM In 2004, TAM became the company with the largest market share in Brazil.
Gol the most modern; intensive use of online services; uses a paperless ticket and check-in system
Vasp the one with the oldest aircrafts; the one in deeper financial troubles

Because of the financial troubles which has affected all companies, there have been talks about a merge between Varig and TAM; the negotiations lasted the whole year of 2003, but no final agreement was reached. During the period, the two companies operated in a code share system that, if may have been good for them, was very bad for consumers (higher prices, worse services).
Gol is the newest of the large companies; their business model attempts to follow SouthWest: modern airplanes (less maintenaince costs), sales over the internet (savings on staff), snacks for lunch, etc. However, the lack of competition prevents prices from falling much; there are some other low-fare carriers (see bottom of page), their standards are lower.

The commercial airlines are regulated by the
DAC - Department of Civil Aviation.
Brazilian airports are built and maintained by Infraero; the boarding taxes paid by every passenger in Brazil are collected by Infraero.

Brazilian airline companies have little subsides, and taxation is high. In consequence, air fares for internal flights are expensive (a ticket Sao Paulo - Manaus may be more expensive than Sao Paulo - Miami); check out the sites for actual prices.
All companies offer promotional seats; bigger discounts usually apply to early booking and night flights.
Notice that, very often, the total cost of a package to the major tourist resorts, typically including return tickets and a seven-day stay in tourist hotels, is usually lower than the cost of the flight alone; check out with the major travel agencies and tour operators.

There are few regional companies in Brazil (companies which operate predominantly in small airports); check out
RioSul (a subsidiary of Varig) and Pantanal AirLines.

These companies are especialized in low cost flights:
Fly and BRA; notice, however, that these companies do not have back up aircrafts, which may cause long delays in your flight (their tickets are not honoured by anyone else). Notice, also, that some promotional flights of the major companies may be as cheap as these discount companies.

International fares are regulated by international competition; so, prices for international routes are not much different from other major international airlines. Varig is the company which operates more routes.

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