Brazil's top airline moving headquarters to Blue Lagoon
By Victor Cruz
Brazil's No. 1 domestic airline and the country's No. 2 carrier for international routes plans to plot its future from a new US base in September.
Transportes Aereos Regionais, or TAM Airlines, is relocating its Miami offices as it maps an expansion to other North American cities important to its market, said Jose Carlos Frandji, TAM's commercial director for North America.
The airline, he said, is moving administrative offices from 7205 NW 19th St. to a larger site for a headquarters on Blue Lagoon Drive.
"We need more space during this period because we have been growing up," Mr. Frandji said. "We found a very good space that is more corporate-looking and where there are a lot of related offices, like that of the International Air Transportation Association."
For the past three years, Mr. Frandji said, TAM has grown between 33% and 35% annually. He said the line transported 2.8 million passengers within Brazil in the first quarter this year, surpassing Varig Airlines as the country's top carrier.
Mr. Frandji said Brazil's economic downturn and energy crisis has had little impact on the airline's US expansion, focused on attracting customers southward.
"It's one of the best-managed airlines doing business in Miami and Latin America, the businessman's airline of choice in Brazil," said Peter Reaveley, consultant for internal planning and former manager of route development for Miami International Airport.
TAM's new headquarters will employ 70 people, primarily in accounting and reservation jobs, up from 45. TAM customer service plans to maintain about 30 employees at Miami airport, Mr. Frandji said.
As for the US cities TAM intends to target, New York is first on its list. The airline, which began flying from Miami in December 1998, expects to open an office at the city's John. F. Kennedy International in May 2002, Mr. Frandji said.
According to company literature, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Orlando are other target cities.
"We will consolidate operations in Miami with a fourth daily direct flight to Brazil" from Miami to Rio de Janeiro at the end of this year, Mr. Frandji said, "then start the new operation in New York."
The airline last week added round trips from Miami to Manaus. It gave letters of commitment to Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica to purchase up to 100 new jets valued at $3 billion and up to 20 other airplanes from Airbus Industry at a cost of $800 million.
While the Hong Kong-based financial institution HSBC is poised to lend the airline the money for the expansion, the airline is waiting to decide how many planes need to be purchased, Mr. Frandji said.
He said in order to promote the Manaus flight TAM joined forces with Ariau Amazon Towers, a "tree-top" hotel in the Amazon River basin.
"It's a very good destination for people in eco-tourism. We have a huge industrial zone in Manaus where companies like Nokia and Whirlpool have joint ventures with Brazilian companies like Gradiente and Brastemb, respectively," Mr. Frandji said. "The Amazon is the lung of world."