Air France KLM ‘confident’ about Brazil after strong 2023

(Corrects Dec. 12 story to clarify in fourth paragraph that KLM does not fly to Fortaleza)

SAO PAULO (Reuters) -Air France KLM is confident about the prospects for Brazil’s market in 2024, an executive for the airline said on Tuesday, following a year of good results, including high load factors and strong demand.

The carrier operates 39 weekly flights in Brazil, including 25 on Air France and 14 on KLM. That is fewer than the 44 weekly flights prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but more than the 32 last year.

“We are confident about the potential of Brazil for 2024,” Manuel Flahault, France KLM’s general manager for South America, told reporters, noting that the Brazilian market has proved to be “very resilient.”

Air France has flights connecting Paris to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza, as well as a route between Belem and French Guiana’s capital Cayenne. KLM flies between Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Qatar Airways – which has increased its Sao Paulo-Doha services – and Chile’s Latam, which recently retook the lead in U.S.-Brazil traffic for the first time since the pandemic are also optimistic about Brazil.

Air France had an average load factor of 91.4% through October in flights connecting Brazil and Europe, while KLM’s load factor was 91.3%, said Flahault.

The carrier is focused on maintaining the strong numbers in the new year. “Initial signs for the first and second quarters are positive,” the executive said.

Further expanding routes, however, might be difficult for the company in the short term as it grapples with aircraft availability, with planemakers delaying deliveries due to supply chain issues.

A pilot shortage following the pandemic has also curbed expansion plans, Flahault added.

Air France KLM also has a commercial partnership with Brazilian airline Gol, which was recently extended for 10 years.

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Richard Chang)