Sao Paulo dominates Brazil's busiest domestic and international routes

Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport is Latin America's busiest international hub, but ranks only 57th in the world by international seats per week (or 24th by ASKs). Guarulhos is also Latin America's biggest domestic hub, ranking 35th in the world by domestic seats per week. Guarulhos is one of seven Brazilian airports among the world's top 100 domestic airports (by seats) but is the only Brazilian airport in the international top 100. This shows Brazil's market still remains very much a domestic-dominated market – similar to China.

The other seven Brazilian airports in the global domestic top 100 ranking are Brasilia (number 38), Sao Paolo Congonhas (43), Rio de Janeiro Galeão (59), Belo Horizonte (74), Salvador (83) and Curitiba (91).

Only the US (39 airports) and China (20 airports) have more airports than Brazil in the domestic top 100 ranking. This is fitting as Brazil is now the world’s fourth largest domestic market after the US, China and India.

Sao Paulo dominates Brazil's domestic market

Combined, Sao Paulo’s two main airports – Guarulhos and Congonhas – currently have just under one million domestic seats per week. This puts Sao Paulo ahead of two other fast-growing emerging markets that only have a single airport – Jakarta and Guangzhou.

Sao Paulo's alternative airport Viracopos has another 200,000 domestic seats per week, which makes it the 10th largest domestic airport in Brazil. Combined Sao Paulo’s three airports have about as many domestic seats as Denver, which is the world’s sixth largest domestic airport.

Slot-controlled Congonhas is located near the city centre and is limited to narrowbody domestic flights. Guarulhos is the main international gateway to Brazil, but has also emerged as Brazil’s largest domestic airport partially due to the constraints at CongonhasViracopos is further afield, located in the Sao Paulo suburb of Campinas, and is a fast-growing alternative airport used mainly by low-cost domestic passenger carriers and cargo operators.

Brazil’s largest domestic airports by capacity (seats per week): 12-Sep-2011 to 18-Sep-2011

As Brazil's largest domestic airport, it is not surprising that Guaralhos features in eight of Brazil's 20 largest domestic city pairs against Congonhas' five. Congonhas, however, features in the two busiest city pairs in the country: Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont and the capital, Brasilia.

There is remarkably little change in the rankings between now and the upcoming Southern Hemisphere summer schedule.

Brazil's top 20 domestic routes by seats (per week): 13-Sep-2011 vs 16-Jan-2012

Origin Destination Rank Seats
13-Sep-2011  16-Jan-2012  13-Sep-2011  16-Jan-2012
Sao Paulo Congonhas Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont 1 1 71,944 71,944
Sao Paulo Congonhas Brasilia 2 2 61,550 62,006
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Salvador Luis E Magalhaes 3 3 51,776 53,332
Sao Paulo Congonhas Belo Horizonte Tancredo Neves 4 4 48,308 49,484
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Porto Alegre Salgado Filho 5 5 45,014 45,014
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Recife Guararapes 6 6 44,240 44,240
Sao Paulo Congonhas Curitiba Afonso Pena 7 7 43,002 43,254
Rio de Janeiro-Galeão Salvador Luis E Magalhaes 8 8 40,832 41,120
Sao Paulo Congonhas Porto Alegre Salgado Filho 9 10 40,326 39,822
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Brasilia 10 11 37,521 38,481
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Curitiba Afonso Pena 11 9 36,988 40,168
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Rio de Janeiro-Galeão 12 12 35,186 35,186
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Fortaleza Pinto Martins 13 13 33,088 33,088
Brasilia Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont 14 14 32,924 32,924
Brasilia Belo Horizonte Tancredo Neves 15 15 31,450 30,544
Porto Alegre Salgado Filho Curitiba Afonso Pena 16 16 30,530 30,530
Brasilia Rio de Janeiro-Galeão 17 17 28,866 28,494
Rio de Janeiro-Galeão Porto Alegre Salgado Filho 18 20 28,144 27,772
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Belo Horizonte Tancredo Neves 19 18 28,116 28,116
Salvador Luis E Magalhaes Recife Guararapes 20 19 27,470 28,028

According to Innovata data, Sao Paulo Congonhas-Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont is the 25th largest domestic route in the world while Congonhas-Braslia is the 42nd largest domestic route in the world. They are the two largest domestic routes in all of Latin America.

Both routes are primarily served by three carriers – Gol, TAM and Avianca Brazil. The three other main carriers in BrazilAzul, TRIP and Webjet – have very few or no slots at Congonhas. Azul and TRIP are based at Viracopos while Webjet is based in Rio de Janeiro.

Webjet has a relatively large portfolio of domestic slots at Guarulhos and Santos Dumont, where in both cases it is the third largest carrier after Gol and TAM. Gol cited the attractiveness of these slots in deciding earlier this year to acquire Webjet. The acquisition, which is expected to close in mid-2012, will give Gol about a 43% share of the total domestic market (based on RPKs) – equalling TAM’s current share. See related article: Webjet acquisition improves Gol’s position in world’s fourth largest domestic market.

Based on seats, Gol is poised to overtake TAM as Brazil's largest domestic carrier once the acquisition of Webjet closes.

Brazilian domestic market capacity by carrier (seats per week): 12-Sep-2011 to 18-Sep-2011

Brazil’s domestic market over the last two years has been one of the fastest growing in the world. Based on figures from Brazil’s ANAC, domestic RPKs were up 24% in 2010 and another 21% in 1H2011. See related article: More rapid growth for Brazil's domestic market. In Jul-2011 domestic RPKs were again up another 20% compared to Jul-2010.

Guarulhos dominates Brazil's international market 

While Guarulhos is the largest international airport in Latin America, 65% of its seats are currently allocated to the domestic market, according to Innovata data. Brazil, which is the fifth most populated country in the world, is an even more domestic-dominated market than China or IndiaChina currently has three airports in the international top 100 compared to two for India and only one for Brazil. The US has nine airports among the world’s 100 largest airports by international capacity (seats).

In terms of international capacity, Guarulhos accounts for over 60% of all seats to and from Brazil. While Sao Paulo is one of the five largest cities in the world and is South America's biggest financial centre, Guarulhos also serves as the primary hub in Brazil for international-to-domestic connections.

Rio de Janeiro Galeão is the second largest international airport but in terms of international capacity is less than one-third the size of Guarulhos. Brazil's other airports have rather limited international traffic.

Brazil’s largest international airports by capacity (seats per week): 12-Sep-2011 to 18-Sep-2011

Not surprisingly, Sao Paulo Guarulhos dominates the international route rankings to/from Brazil, featuring in 15 of the country's top 20 routes. The biggest three are to destinations elsewhere in South America's southern cone (namely Buenos Aires' two airports and Santiago in Chile). Miami ranks fourth, followed by Madrid Barajas and New York JFK. Paris is served equally from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil's top 20 international routes by seats (per week): 13-Sep-2011 vs 16-Jan-2012

Origin  Destination Rank  Seats 
13-Sep-2011   16-Jan-2012  13-Sep-2011  16-Jan-2012
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini 1 1 26,674 26,674
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Buenos Aires Jorge Newbery 2 2 21,299 24,706
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Santiago 3 4 18,380 18,536
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Miami 4 3 16,394 19,936
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Madrid Barajas 5 7 13,346 13,154
Sao Paulo Guarulhos New York John F Kennedy 6 6 12,824 13,202
Rio de Janeiro-Galeão Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini 7 5 12,684 17,878
Rio de Janeiro-Galeão Paris Charles De Gaulle 8 9 10,502 10,502
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Paris Charles De Gaulle 9 8 10,426 11,210
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Frankfurt 10 10 10,388 10,388
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Montevideo Carrasco 11 12 9720 9900
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Bogota Eldorado 12 14 9408 9408
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Lima J Chavez 13 11 9258 10,014
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Panama City Tocumen 14 15 8736 8736
Sao Paulo Guarulhos London Heathrow 15 13 8575 9548
Porto Alegre Salgado Filho Montevideo Carrasco 16 16 6468 7728
Rio de Janeiro-Galeão Lisbon Lisboa 17 25 6400 5370
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Orlando 18 19 6244 6244
Sao Paulo Guarulhos Lisbon Lisboa 19 22 5984 5896
Rio de Janeiro-Galeão Miami 20 17 5936 7688

A big mover in the rankings over the next few months will be the Rio-Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini Airport (EZE) route, which is seeing a 40% increase in capacity, according to CAPA's Routes Rankings Tool. This increase is driven by the Jan-2011 launch of service by Emirates on the Dubai-Rio de Janeiro-Buenos Aires route. The new daily Emirates flight will add 2597 seats per week in each direction between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

The only other big movers are the Sao Paulo-Miami and Rio-Miami routes. In both cases, the changes are driven by capacity increases by American Airlines for the peak Southern Hemisphere summer season.

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