Founder of JetBlue Airways announces launch of new Brazilian airline
SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- The founder of JetBlue Airways announced plans to start a new Brazilian airline on Thursday, to begin operating next year with three jets and eventually grow to a fleet of 76 planes flying nationwide.
JetBlue chairman David Neeleman said the opportunity is clear: Latin America's largest nation has a growing passenger travel market dominated by two airlines that face little domestic competition and charge high prices.
Neeleman said his new venture has no connection to JetBlue Airways Corp., but some former JetBlue executives will join the venture. The new airline doesn't have a name yet, and will use mid-size E-195 jets made by Brazil's Empresa Brasileira de Aeronatica SA.
The entry of the airline will bring the first serious competition in years to Brazil's TAM Linhas Aereas SA and Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA, two carriers that have dominated air travel in Brazil since the collapse several years ago of Varig, Brazil's former flagship carrier.
"Brazil is a country that needs more competition and a different kind of competition," Neeleman said as he announced the start of the airline.
Neeleman said he would stay on as chairman of JetBlue but that there is no conflict because he is no longer involved in JetBlue's day to day operations.
"There are no plans for a change in his role," said JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin. Baldwin declined further comment, saying the new airline has nothing to do with JetBlue, which is based in Forest Hills, N.Y.
Neeleman said in a statement that he has raised US$150 million for the venture so far from investors in the United States and Brazil.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)