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Three years ago, Gol was Brazil’s largest airline, dominating key markets such as the busy route between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The pandemic changed that.

Competitors Azul and Latam Airlines Group emerged from the crisis faster, ahead of Gol. The airline’s September capacity in Brazil just returned to 82% of 2019 levels, while Cirium’s flight schedule shows 109% for Azul and 104% for Diio in Latin America. Azul’s growth is driven by an extensive network in Brazil, the largest domestic destination, and efficient connectivity hubs in Belo Horizonte, Campinas, and Recife. Meanwhile, Latam’s recovery and expansion is being driven after a failed hostile takeover of a Brazilian business. 

Brazil is Latin America’s largest aviation market with over 119 million passengers in 2019, data from ANAC, the Brazilian civil aviation agency, shows. Air travel, like elsewhere, has been hit hard during the pandemic, according to ANAC’s latest data, but domestic passenger numbers are expected to drop by August. He has recovered to nearly 99% of what he was three years ago. International traffic to and from Brazil has also fallen by a quarter this month.

South America’s largest airline has shifted gears to resume international services as Brazil’s network in Latin America recovers. The airline will resume flights between Santiago, Chile, and Florianopolis on December 4, and three weekly flights between Guarulhos and Johannesburg next July. Latam will launch a new service between Santiago and Curitiba on November 1st.

Latin America also has a vaccination joint venture with Delta Air Lines. The agreement allows the two airlines to coordinate commercial activities between Brazil and some other South American countries and the United States. Both airlines have committed to opening at least nine new routes as part of the partnership. When asked on the forum, his CEO of Latam, Roberto Alvo, declined to comment on when the joint venture will begin. US officials gave him final approval in September.

The Brazilian airline will also launch a new cooperative air shuttle with Aerolineas Argentinas on the Buenos Aires-São Paulo route on November 1st. Ferrer said the deal could be extended to other routes between the two countries, including between Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, or between Mendoza and São Paulo.

Gol used the pandemic to streamline operations by cutting costs and refreshing fleets. The airline plans to put 40 new Boeing 737 Max aircraft into service by the end of the year and is working to bring fuel-free unit costs below 2019 levels. This metric was up 24% year-over-year in the second quarter. Ferrer said the unit price, excluding fuel, will drop once air usage returns to pre-pandemic levels of about 12 hours a day.