United takes stake in Azul to create long-term partnership

United Airlines is to acquire an approximate 5% stake in Azul Brazilian Airlines in order to build a long-term partnership and to pave the way for the carriers to co-operate on a range of customer benefits including codesharing, expanded connection opportunities on routes between the USA and Brazil, and joint loyalty programme participation.

Through a wholly-owned subsidiary, United will invest $100 million for its economic stake in Azul, which includes one seat on Azul's board of directors.

The new partnership is designed to offer customers more flight choices and convenient connections for travel between the United States and destinations in Brazil. Additionally, the partnership will enable United and Azul to provide an improved transfer process at Sao Paulo Guarulhos for timely connections for customers and their baggage. The airlines announced plans for United to place its code on flights in Azul's extensive network from Guarulhos to key destinations throughout Brazil, as well as on Azul's flights to Florida. Azul plans to place its code on United routes throughout North America and the Caribbean, pending government approval.

"This will be great for customers," declared David Neeleman, founder and CEO of Azul. "Through this partnership, Brazilians will have access to destinations in United's worldwide route network, while US customers will be able to fly conveniently to famous destinations in Brazil such as Belo Horizonte, Iguazu Falls and the Amazon."

"Brazil is an important market in United's global route network and this partnership with Azul further strengthens our ties to the region," noted Jim Compton, United's vice-chairman and chief revenue officer. "Together we will offer our mutual customers more choice and convenience when travelling to and from destinations across Brazil."

As a result of the partnership, United and Azul will expand their frequent flyer loyalty agreement. MileagePlus and TudoAzul members will have reciprocal benefits to earn and redeem miles systemwide on both airlines. "It is important to highlight that customers will be able to use their TudoAzul points to fly to any destination served by United worldwide," explained Neeleman.

As the partnership grows, the carriers will work to expand the offerings for loyalty programme members.

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