By João Machado
Days Before Takeoff, Brazilian Start-Up ITA Cancels Flights Due To Lack of Aircraft
Just a week after similar news came to light — and a week before it is slated to begin its revenue operations — Brazilian start up airline Itapemirim Transportes Aéreos has once again cancelled and reshuffled a number of flights, generating concern among affected passengers as to whether the airline will get off the ground successfully.
Once again, the airline did not make such announcements publicly. Instead, it was up to the national aviation media, along with concerned passengers who got in touch with such media, to bring the story to light.
This time, the airline did not offer courtesy tickets to the constrained passengers, although the affected flyers did receive emails informing them about the reshuffles.
“We know the planning of a trip, whether it is for accomplishing dreams, vacations or commitments is a very important moment. This way, we are sorry about the trouble of having your flight canceled,” the email said. It continued by adding, “Our team did not grudge pains to avoid cancellations, especially in this challenging period of the pandemic. Unfortunately, however, adjustments were needed in our launch network so we could better serve you.”
According to Aeroflap, the specialized news website that called attention to the issue, Itapemirim — also known by its shortened name ITA — is slashing operations from its initial base in São Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport to Brasília, Belo Horizonte’s Confins Airport and Porto Alegre.
The portal said these new route removals — unlike last week’s, which were a result of low load factors — are brought by delays on the company’s fleet plans. At this point, ITA plans to start with three Airbus A320s, while the original plan was starting up with five.
In an interview mentioned by Aeroflap, some of Itapemirim’s directors said that the plan is to finish July with the five aircraft operating and to finish August with ten. ITA also expects to operate the Airbus A319.
From a commercial point of view, Itapemirim has huge challenges to face, as it is going toe-to-toe with the country’s heavyweights in trunk routes.
For example, AirlineGeeks did research on each airline’s website for a roundtrip flight from Porto Alegre to São Paulo departing on Monday, July 5 and returning the next day.
Of the established carriers, GOL Airlines offers the lowest price in the lowest fare: 1,167.13 Brazilian reals ($236.50), followed by Azul Brazilian Airlines, which sells fares from as little as 1,325.93 reals and by LATAM Brasil, which sells for as little as 1,378.13 reals.
Meanwhile, Itapemirim is selling fares on the same route and date from values starting at 630.33 reals, only 54% of the total of the next lowest airline. While this may be good for budget-conscious consumers, it is a strong indicator that the company is struggling to sell even its cheapest ticket, losing business to its competitors in the process.
This, in addition to the airline’s more expensive cost structure — ITA wants to put 162 seats in its A320s, versus 174 for Azul and 170 for LATAM, which blocks the middle seat in the first two rows — puts the airline with a long way to go if it wants to succeed in the heavy metal Brazilian aviation market.