Air Transport World

Tenacious Transbrasil. (airline)(Company Profile)

After eight years of losses, the now-profitable Brazilian carrier is seeking alliances in order to become a truly global enterprise

Sao Paulo--Transbrasil is nothing if not tenacious. Since its inception in the late 1950s, Brazil's third-largest airline has managed to grow despite the country's political and economic uncertainties. A sobrevivente--survivor--as the Brazilians would say.

An example of the carrier's determination occurred at a meeting of its shareholders in August, 1988. The airline was bleeding money profusely and Chairman Omar Fontana wanted to sue the Brazilian government for setting air fares so low as to ensure the demise of the carrier he founded.

Transbrasil did sue and prevailed in the lower courts. A final decision on the government's appeal to the Supreme Court is expected by the time this article is printed. So confident is Fontana of winning the $498 million judgment, which could erase a $380 million debt from Transbrasil's books, that he is making expansion plans.

Those plans include aligning with two heavyweight international carriers, KLM and Northwest Airlines, by the second half of 1996. For several months, Transbrasil has talked with both carriers about a marketing alliance that would include both passenger and cargo service, and the addition of new routes, possibly a run from Sao Paulo to Detroit.

Neither Northwest nor KLM would provide specific details of the recently signed MOU but they did confirm that talks are taking place.

Fontana may have jumped the gun on announcing the proposed alliance but he is convinced of the importance of linking with a large international airline, despite an arrangement with United Airlines that didn't work out.

"Latin American carriers will not survive without international partners and Transbrasil must be prepared to participate in the globalization process," he stated emphatically.

Transbrasil's long-term strategy includes launching international service to Beijing via Europe and "Flight of the Americas" service from Buenos Aires to Brasilia to Washington and Ottawa, linking four capitals. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.