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For those of you not familiar with Manaus, this city of more than 1.5 million people lies along the Rio Negro, just above the Amazon River, 900 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. It is both the capital of the state of Amazonas and a major inland port — reachable by oceangoing ships — that collects and distributes goods to the entire region. Surrounded by rain forest, Manaus is the premier departure point for trips into the Amazon.
Manaus is also the seventh American Airlines destination in Brazil, joining Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife and Brasília. We now serve more cities in Brazil than in any country besides the United States and Mexico. In the past four years, we have not only added Brazilian destinations, we have increased service frequency in some markets and have added new nonstop routes, like New York to Rio de Janeiro and Dallas/Fort Worth to Rio de Janeiro.
The emphasis we have placed on Brazil is not surprising when you consider that it has the largest population in Latin America (more than 200 million people), and the sixth-largest economy in the world (having recently surpassed the United Kingdom). And it is home to the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere, São Paulo. The Brazilian economy is big and diverse, with robust manufacturing, service, agricultural and mining sectors. It has also been growing at an impressive clip — 7.5 percent growth in 2010 and an estimated 3.5 percent last year. While 2012 is not even halfway complete, Brazil’s economy is expected to grow by another 4 percent this year.
As the leading airline between the United States and Brazil, American is already well positioned to participate in Brazil’s growth. But of course, rather than rest on our laurels, we are working hard and moving fast to extend our lead in this very important market. In addition to the new service between Miami and Manaus, this month we are increasing our number of weekly flights between DFW and São Paulo, between Miami and Brasília and between Miami and Belo Horizonte. With these changes in place, we will offer nearly 90 weekly flights between the U.S. and Brazil — by far the most in the industry.
As much as we have grown our Brazilian presence in recent years, we have really just scratched the surface of what we can and intend to do. The United States and Brazil recently reached an Open Skies agreement, which paved the way for us to seize some of the opportunities I’ve already mentioned and which — when fully implemented in 2015 — will enable us to grow even more. Naturally, we are very excited that Brazil will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014 as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Remember, sports fans, it’s never too early to start making plans!
The attraction of Brazil is easy to understand. It’s hard not to get excited about a country that boasts 5,000 miles of coastline, rain forests and wetlands; thoroughly modern, cosmopolitan cities; a booming economy; and a unique and fascinating culture. Not to mention Carnaval, an experience that is more than worthy of its own column!
If you haven’t already, I hope you will let us help you discover some of the amazing things Brazil has to offer. And if you’ve already been, let us know when you’re ready to go back.
Wherever you’re going today, we appreciate you flying with us.
Thomas W. Horton