Who the F*** is Air Azul?

Long-time readers may vaguely remember my “who the f***” series of posts, but it’s been quite awhile since my last one. When I saw “Air Azul” pop up on my radar for the second time, I figured it was time to bring it back. So who the f*** is Air Azul?

First let’s clear the air. This is not the Spanish version of JetBlue. Nor is it related to David Neeleman’s Air AzulAzul venture down in Brazil. And no, it has nothing to do with Pakistan’s AirBlue. It’s just another airline trying to ride on the “coolness” that was “blue” when JetBlue took flight.

It’s first semi-scheduled route connected Nashville with Somerset, Lake Cumberland Regional Airport (Kentucky) four times a week with little Metro props. The service started on December 27, 2008 under a $1m grant, but if you believe the website, it’s ending May 1. Nice. But the airline doesn’t actually operate any aircraft – it just leases the planes from Locair to fly as a public charter. (That’s why I say it’s semi-scheduled.) So if those flights are ending, why the heck am I even writing about this airline?

Air Azul has a new plan. They’re going to continue doing public charters like so many other failed airlines before (Remember SkyValue?), but now they’re going big. You can read all about it at FlytheNewBlue.com. Yes, apparently they have decided that JetBlue is old news, and now they’ll be so much better. What exactly is going to differentiate them?

My guess is that their biggest differentiator will be their empty planes. They’re using 737-800s from Sun Country. Those planes have a lot of seats, 162 to be exact, so you’d think they’d be flying to places with decent demand, right? Not so fast. How do these routes sound?

  • Baltimore to Lansing (three times weekly)
  • Baltimore to Rockford (twice weekly)
  • Newark to Lansing (three times weekly)
  • Newark to Melbourne (Florida) (twice weekly)
  • Newark to Rockford (three times weekly)
  • Newark to South Bend (three times weekly)
  • Newark to Toledo (three times weekly)

Something tells me that now is not the time to be betting on secondary airports in the suffering Rust Belt, but that appears to be the plan. They seem to be trying to channel Allegiant but instead of sun destinations, they’re going for New York and Baltimore. Could it work? Maybe in theory to New York, but Baltimore? I wouldn’t bet on it.

I also wouldn’t want to be flying expensive 737-800 aircraft around for this kind of operation. Let’s just say that they have an uphill battle, and that’s being kind. I’ll be particularly interested in seeing how they do with their on-time performance since their plane flies through Newark at least once a day.

I’m not quite sure what these guys are thinking, but apparently they think they’ve got something here. Anyone want to take bets?


27 Responses to Who the F*** is Air Azul?

  1. thisworldtraveler says:

    I actually think the South Bend flights could work, although the 737 seems an awful big plane for that market. I flew in and out of that airport last week and the planes (granted they were 50 seat RJs) were packed.

    I doubt that the routes or this airline will last long, but I do think, given Notre Dame’s presence and its relative close proximity as a Chicago alternate airport to most of Northwest Indiana could give the South Bend route some success.

  2. David says:

    Taking the Ryanair model, is Baltimore airport really that difficult to reach to/from Washington ? Further, does BWI charge the same airport fees as IAD / DCA and what are turnaround times and congestion like at BWI ?

  3. james says:

    Being a Grand Rapids native I noticed the Lansing routes. I suppose some government folks might take advantage of the BWI route, but wouldn’t spur me to go to D.C. for the weekend if I was a leisure traveler, and GRR offers plenty of options being just 60 miles away, (and on the east side of the city via a wide open freeway)

    A few years back there was an article (Grand Rapids Press I believe) about West Michigan being “over airported,” in that every tertiary city around Grand Rapids, (Lansing, Kalamazoo, Muskegon,) is fighting for flights, when a better method would be to pool resources in Grand Rapids to make that stronger.

    I can see that logic, but of course right now folks running the Lansing airport are be thrilled. (I should say thrilled for the year or two these flights will be around…)

  4. Ron says:

    What’s the difference between a public charter and a scheduled airline? Europe has many “charter airlines” (like Monarch) which seem to act just like scheduled airlines except that their flights are more likely to be very late. An airline employee at STN once referred to easyJet as a “charter airline” because they didn’t do interline ticketing (my flight to LHR was diverted to STN, and the airline refused to put me on an onward flight by easyJet, and instead bussed me to LHR to get a later connection on BMI).

    Perhaps it’s time for another what the f*** post :-)

  5. Smail says:

    Looks like a great series of routes of you’re trying to see a bunch of minor league baseball games…

  6. A says:

    Are the Sun Country 737’s lease planes they don’t use in the summer months, or are they planes that were ordered but didn’t take delivery? I haven’t heard and local news of Sun Country selling off any of their planes. Thought [sun country] was actually doing ok. Might the bigger story be why they are giving up some equipment?

  7. Dan says:

    David,
    Last year I had to do the DC to BWI trip. (Flew into DCA, left out of BWI)

    It was a quick 30 minute train ride from DC’s union station. Once we got at the BWI station, it was an easy bus ride to the terminal.

    Not as easy as DCA,, but, it wasn’t any more of a hassle than IAD is from DC.

  8. Hmm.. I really like on their website they have a star on CVG but not any lines from it, or announced service there. Real professional outfit.

    Although its gotta be good for Sun Country. They at least get some extra charter work..

  9. heather says:

    Cranky – is there any way we could get Air Azul to defend their reasoning for their plan? Based on what I see here – makes no sense.

  10. Oh, and the other thing, JetBlue has tried the Midwest (CMH) and pulled out of it pretty quickly..

  11. Eric says:

    Looks like a “win” for SY in that they will have something to do with their planes during the summer capacity trim. Based on what little we know about this operation….who in the hell, in this economy, is financing a venture like this????? Businesses and individuals with good credit & business plans are getting caught up in this capital smack down…so what kind of maniac is underwriting a business that my five year old can see flaws in?

  12. Eric says:

    PS: BWI to DC is very easy to transit MONDAY to FRIDAY. MARC trains run from BWI Airport to DC Union Station every 20 to 30 minutes for under ten bucks:trip time about 30 minutes. On the weekend, you can 1) rent a car and ‘fly’ down the BW parkway at 10mph in traffic or 2) take the bus from BWI to the to the Greenbelt METRO station and take the subway into town: trip time about 1 1/2 hrs.

  13. The Traveling Optimist says:

    I lived in Baltimore for five years. BWI is an easy 15 minutes from downtown (except on game days) and about 25 on the Baltimore Light Rail (again, except on game days when the cars are packed with day-tripping Orioles fans).

    From DC, either the Parkway or I-95 can get you there in a hurry so long as there is neither an accident or rush hour. Then there’s the MARC train and the Greenbelt Metro bus as mentioned earlier.

    Since they’ve been trying to lure business from the other two airports I would imagine their fee structure is attractive to most airlines. BWI is not an alternative to DCA by anybody’s realistic assessment except for those “Tweeners” who live between the two beltways, northern PG County and soon Montgomery County when the Connector Corridor is completed. A lot of visiting teams use BWI because it’s the closest to the major stadiums in Baltimore and FedEx Field so that gives you more of an idea.

    Finally, BWI has room to handle its current traffic so turn times are decent barring any bad weather. It’s a solid, unassuming, reliable airport with clean, spacious and recently upgraded facilities. No delusions of grandeur about what it is, does and whom it serves – it just goes about its business of serving customers very nicely.

  14. Vidiot says:

    Seems strange to go into MLB — MCO is an hour away on a fast freeway.

  15. Jay says:

    On AirAzul’s booking pages there is this note:

    “Fares do not includes…”

    Might want to clean that up boys…..but I’m just nitpicking…

  16. Cwm says:

    I’d also like some clarifiaction on what exactly a “public charter” is. I remember here in CA many years ago an outfit called Winair. They flew from Long Beach to OAK, SLC, and a few others using 737-200s. They were also dubbed public charters, and you could book through their website.

  17. PF says:

    One of Mr. Neeleman’s first successful ventures was a public charter, MORRIS AIR SERVICE , which eventually had so many scheduled public charter flights there was pressure to obtain an operating certificate to become MORRIS AIR, which was sold to Southwest.

  18. CF says:

    Lots of talk about public charters here today. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with a public charter, and that wasn’t my point. I found a very good description about public charters with links on the North American Airlines website:
    http://www.flynaa.com/charterus_faqs.aspx#faq_2

    I would imagine one reason to go with a public charter is that you probably would need less money to get started and you can get it started much easier from a regulatory perspective. Someone can correct me if they know more.

    A – I tend to agree with Nicholas and Eric that this is a win for Sun Country. It’s guaranteed revenue for them and that is always a good thing.

  19. Yo says:

    Seriously, I have zero desire to be in Lansing or Newark.

    Its like a choice between being burned to death or stabbed to death.

    Sun Country, good luck with those payments, I’d get some advance money, these guys will be out like crap through a goose.

  20. SmarteCart Thief says:

    RFD-EWR will work. Several flights already sold out. Unfortunately the rest of the routes will force them to vacate the entire business plan.

  21. Eric says:

    Totally agree SmarteCart lol (love the name). Just seems to me that with no interline agreements or connection opportunity….it is money down the drain. Check out the dept/arrvl times…into EWR; usless for a business traveler…more useless for someone making Intl connections. Hope SY got their cash up front.

    I know there is O&D opportunity…that might work on an E170…but a 73-800 is allot of plane to fill.

  22. Scott says:

    … and, look at their map… the BIG factor not yet mentioned is that they are going head-to-head with Delta (think NWA)… ouch.

  23. SmarteCart Thief says:

    I agree with “thisworldtraveler” in that SBN could work as well (to EWR), although not as promising as RFD. Lansing and Toledo, based on historic O&D figures, don’t stand a chance to neither EWR or BWI”.

  24. Nick says:

    Right now they’re just flying a few hillbillies to the country & western capital. Don’t see any reason why anyone would think they’d be successful.

  25. CA says:

    There are MANY of us who have been waiting for someone to fly direct from EWR to MLB for 8 year (since Continental stopped). I hope they are successful!

  26. Dave says:

    I agree with Smartecarte. The Rockford routes could be successful. Rockford has over 2,000,000 population within 1.5 hours of RFD, free parking, short lines, minimal commuter traffic. I’d much rather fly in and out of Rockford than OHare or Midway.

  27. ELI martinez says:

    Can’t wait for the MLB/EWR Start-up. I will fly it twice a month. Hoping it works out for them.

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