Azul to Retire Airbus A350 Fleet?

DALLAS – Azul Linhas Aéreas (AD), Brazil’s largest low-cost carrier, plans to phase out its fleet of Airbus A350 aircraft after less than one year of operations, according to local Brazilian media Aeroin

The airline has updated its Campinas Viracopos Airport (VCP) slots, and the last flight of the type looks scheduled for October 28, 2023, from VCP to Orlando (MCO), marking the end of a very short era in the airline’s fleet history.

Azul planned to introduce five -900 series airframes in 2017. However, after constant delays, the first unit arrived as late as September 2022.

Azul Airbus A350-900 PR-AOY first arrival in Paris
The last arrival of the Azul A350 to Paris-Orly Airport is expected to happen on October 2, 2023. Photo: Paris Aéroport.

Azul’s A350 Story

Azul’s interest in the Airbus A350-900 began in 2014 when the carrier signed a dry-lease contract with ILFC for five airframes. This deal was cancelled in 2017, and the reserved units were transferred to the Chinese carrier Hong Kong Airlines (HX), which operated both jets until the COVID-19 outbreak, forcing their grounding.

Airframes PR-AOW (MSN 168) and PR-AOY (MSN 124) were ferried to the French aircraft storage facilities at Tarbes Airport (LDE). They remained here until AD chose to reincorporate both units in September and December 2022.

After three months of crew and maintenance training, PR-AOW and PR-AOY were put to work on routes from Campinas (VCP) to Paris (ORY), Lisbon (LIS) and Orlando (MCO), among others.

Two other A350s, with MSN 098 and 112, that once were destined for the Brazilian LCC were transferred to Hainan Airlines (HU) and, at the end of 2022, have found a new customer, Iberia (IB).

Although fuel efficiency is worse, maintenance costs of the A330 are lower than the ones of the Airbus A350. Photo: Otto Kirchof/Airways

An Early Goodbye to the Flagship

Azul Linhas Aéreas is one of the most successful low-cost carriers in the history of Brazil. Being the airline with the country’s most extensive domestic air network, it has recently given itself a try in the challenging transatlantic market.

AD owns and operates a fleet of nine Airbus A330 family jets, including five of the next-generation A330-900neo variant. The strategy of Azul in low-cost travel has made the airline record revenues in Q1 2023.

However, according to local media, the Airbus A350 aircraft has not adapted well to the methodology of AD regarding cost efficiency. Azul sees the A350 as an airplane with very high maintenance and operational cost, even though it has some of the best fuel burn performances in the industry.

No official confirmation has been received from the company regarding the true reason, context and consequences of the types retirement.

Featured image: Monique Martinez, used with permission.

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