Airbus A350 may be back in Azul’s plans

Brazilian carrier has four registered aircraft that had been transferred to Hong Kong Airlines

Last week, Tarmac Aerosave published a post on Twitter celebrating the completion of the reactivation and return to the skies of an Airbus A350-900 from Azul Linhas Aereas that had been in storage for more than two years.

The aircraft, MSN 168, recently took off from Tarmac’s headquarters at Tarbes Lourdes airport in southern France, and is one of four A350 jets registered in Azul’s name.

They are part of an order from 2014, but the Brazilian airline gave up operating the aircraft very close to the delivery of the first plane, in 2017. At the time, Azul chose to reinforce its long-range fleet with the leasing of the A330-900neo.

Azul then decided to pass them on to the Chinese group Hainan Airlines (HNA) and the aircraft were operated by Hong Kong Airlines, a subsidiary of HNA. The Airbuses still retain the Asian company’s paint scheme.

The Chinese carrier, however, faced financial difficulties during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the aircraft were stored in 2020 – HNA was also an important shareholder in Azul, but ended up divesting its shares.

“Azul continues to work on its fleet renewal plan, already announced in the past. Regarding this matter [whether the company intends to operate the A350s], further details should be announced in due course,” the company told Airway.

Tarmac’s post on the social network, however, indicates that Azul is indeed interested in flying the A350: “What an achievement! We are all deeply involved in the #A350 EIS for Blue. This is by far our most important post-Covid project. Every time such a major milestone is achieved, I think to myself I took the best decision-supporting #TARMACAerosave within Azul.”

Azul Airbus A350 in 2017 (Clement Alloing)

What might have changed?

Azul’s refusal to explain what happened is expected since the airline trades shares on the stock exchange and any plan needs to be notified to its shareholders and the market. The possible change over the A350 could involve the growing demand of international air traffic after the health crisis caused by Covid-19.

Many airlines have reconsidered the use of large-capacity jets because of the need to transport more people on transoceanic routes. Azul, in particular, does not have an extensive international network, but nothing prevents the company from having re-planned its expansion. Even before the pandemic, the company claimed flights to destinations like New York, for example.

Much more spacious than the A330neo, the A350 is also an efficient jet and offers a superior onboard experience. If confirmed, it will be the return of the Airbus aircraft to Brazil after LATAM has decided to return its aircraft of the type.

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