Air Transport World

Reaching for the top - again. (Brazil's Varig S.A. restores quality of in-flight services)

Anticipating an end to inflation problems in Brazil, Varig plans to restore high quality of in-flight services. By Edvaldo Pereira Lima.

Rio de Janeiro-As the new decade began, Varig and sister airline Cruzeiro do Sul began a new drive to improve their in-flight service, which, while noted for its high standard, has suffered some setbacks in the last few years. Even so, the carrier's good public image is mainly due to that standard, an image built up step by step since 1955, when long-haul operations started with the first flight to New York. Nevertheless, the setbacks have not scared passengers away, says in-Flight Service Director Suergio Prates. in 1989, Varig had an outstanding load factor of 81 % on flights to Tokyo; 74% on routes to the U.S.; 68% on routes to Europe and 65% on routes within South America. Average load factor, for both domestic and international traffic, was 71%.

This shows that passengers are loyal to the airline, thanks to Prates, but they cannot fail to compare current service with the even-higher standard of some years back. The prestige remains high. A survey conducted by the airline in eight European countries and the U.S. last year found that, among frequent fliers, Varig was seen as No. 1 in terms of in-flight services, on both the Europe-Brazil and U.S.-Brazil corridors. The airline was favored slightly over the second-place European carrier, Swissair but was many points-31 /0-ahead of second-place Pan Am on the U.S. routes. Even so, passengers notice some decline in quality. 1,765% inflation

Now the carrier gears up a new phase of development but finds itself strapped by a tight budget. The continuing economic crisis in Brazil has hit the air-transport market badly. in 1989, the inflation rate was 1,765% and airlines have complained that fares, controlled by the government, are too low to meet operating expenses. This year, the only major program that the board approved is a U.S. $100 million drive to recruit and train 600 new flight attendants. …

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