United and Azul: JVs on Latin America and airlines make their move

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Another piece of the partnership puzzle for airlines operating between the US and Brazil has come together now that United has doubled its stake in Brazil's largest airline, Azul. United has upped its stake to 8% just after Brazil's Senate approved the US-Brazil open skies agreement, which paves the way for LATAM Airlines Group and American to start the process of gaining necessary approvals for their proposed joint venture.

Azul has openly stated its desire to forge a joint venture with United. The two airlines currently have a codeshare covering Azul's domestic markets from São Paulo Guarulhos and several routes in the US. United also codeshares with its fellow Star Alliance member Avianca Brazil, reflecting a dual strategy by the US major airline in Latin America's largest aviation market.

United has also been in discussions to forge a joint venture with the Latin American aviation group Avianca, which operates separately from Avianca Brazil, but has expressed an interest in merging with Brazil's fourth largest airline. Both Avianca and Avianca Brazil are majority owned by the Synergy Group. With so many moving parts, it remains to be seen how United intends to navigate its relationships in Brazil and throughout South America.

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