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Brazil is the largest country, in terms of size and population, in South America. Brazil’s aviation sector is comprised of multiple local and international airlines. Brazil has approximately 2,500 airports (including landing strips). São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport is the largest and busiest airport, with Congonhas and Campo de Marte serving as regional airports in São Paulo. TAM Airlines is the biggest Brazilian airline followed by GOL, Azul, TRIP and WebJet Linhas Aéreas which operate regionally with some international services.
The Brazilian agency ANAC (Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil) is responsible for the regulation and safety of civil aviation. Brazil is party to the Mercosur's Fortaleza accord, a South American multilateral airspace agreement.
Airports in Brazil
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Weakness in long-haul markets from Brazil continued to pressure LATAM Airlines Group during 1Q2013 as competitive capacity increases triggered depressed loads and unit revenues in its international network. But LATAM’s efforts to restore strength in the Brazilian domestic market and the relative strength in the group’s Spanish speaking companies should help to offset some of the continuing pressure in LATAM’s international network.
The company’s attempts to bolster international service during the last year to offset some of the continuing weakness in the Brazilian domestic market have faltered somewhat due to competitive capacity increases by American and United in the US-Brazil market, and LATAM’s own expansion of supply in the market. The company’s overall capacity increase in its international markets during 1Q2013 was 12.3%.
Brazil’s second largest carrier Gol recorded mixed fortunes during 1Q2013 as its overall losses widened year-over-year but yields and unit revenues improved at what appears to be at the expense of load factor. After recording annual losses for the last two years Gol is hoping an aggressive capacity reduction in the Brazilian domestic market place and a significant reduction in its workforce will help the carrier slowly improve its fortunes.
But Gol faces challenges in achieving its turnaround as company management believes it is uncertain that Brazil will record 2.5% GDP growth in 2013 while inflation is rising. The carrier feels positive about its position heading into the slow season in South America, but the timing of a full recovery for the carrier seems far from uncertain.
Brazil’s domestic market is showing more signs of a slowdown after shrinking by 1% in the first quarter. Load factors are improving, an encouraging sign for profitability, but growth has taken a back seat, driven by the capacity cuts at Gol and TAM.
The country’s international market, meanwhile, is showing signs of over-capacity as load factors slipped in 1Q2013. The key Brazil-US market has particularly become over-saturated.
The Brazilian international market will likely post high single digit growth in 2013. The domestic market should also still grow, albeit modestly, for the full year. But Brazil’s once red hot aviation sector faces a challenging 2013. As Brazil is by far the largest market in the region, the slowdown will drive down overall Latin America growth figures.
Competitive pressure in long-haul markets between the US and Brazil was a major driver in the 10.3% year-over-year decrease in yields during 4Q2012 for the powerful newly minted LATAM Airlines Group, which is the combination of Brazil’s leading carrier TAM and South American group LAN. The performance in long-haul markets is likely disappointing for the group as its performance in Brazil’s cooling domestic market improved during the last three months of 2012.
In some ways the competitive pressure on long-haul markets from the US and Brazil will be short-lived as TAM and American Airlines are working to forge a codeshare partnership that will see the two historic rivals team up in the market now that LATAM has selected oneworld as its alliance of choice. Once all the regulatory approvals for the tie-up are in place, TAM will be able to benefit from onward connections in Miami and New York that it currently does not enjoy. Based on current schedules in Innovata (24-Mar-2013 to 30-Mar-2013) TAM and American presently account for 69% of the capacity between the US and Brazil.
TAM will soon defect from Star to join its sister carrier LAN in oneworld. TAP Portugal’s future alliance membership is surrounded by uncertainty until its likely renewed privatisation process is complete. These developments throw the spotlight on the strategic importance of routes from Europe to Latin America to European carriers, who dominate this market, in particular the Big Three, but TAP Portugal, Alitalia and Air Europa also have noticeable positions. The South Atlantic market is only around one fifth of the size of the North Atlantic market by RPKs. So why should Latin America matter to European airlines?
In addition to forecast passenger traffic growth rates that, while not spectacular, are still very respectable and superior to those in Europe and on the North Atlantic, Latin America is a fascinating strategic battleground for Europe’s carriers, both directly and through alliances.
It is a territory of changing alliances and emerging players and, for those that are successful, market share gains can provide significantly higher growth then the underlying market.
Gol pledges a financial turnaround as it records a second consecutive annual loss, of USD745 million
Brazil’s second largest carrier Gol was unable to turn its fortunes positive in 2012 and actually widened its loss for the year. Despite its attempts to combat the cooling Brazilian domestic market through marked capacity cuts and turning some of its attention to international services, Gol recorded a BRL447 million (USD222 million) loss for 4Q2012 and a BRL1.5 billion (USD745 million) negative result for the full year.
Gol believes the changes it has made with respect to its domestic supply and various cost-containment schemes should produce a positive operating result for 1Q2013. But the carrier made similar pronouncements during 2012 as it recorded four quarters of unprofitability, so the pressure is mounting on management to put some grit behind a pledged turnaround.
Unlike its major rival TAM, which is now part of the powerful LATAM Airlines Group, Gol does not have the benefit of large network to help it diversify from areas of weakness to more robust regions. Both Gol and TAM during 2012 had to combat softening demand that resulted from Brazil’s slowing economy. During 2012 GDP growth in Brazil was revised down to 2% from 4%, and during 2013 Gol is projecting growth of 2.5% to a maximum of 3%. This compares to GDP growth of approximately 7.5% growth in Brazil during 2010.