* Deal should see full flight liberalization by 2014
* Should result in direct flights between more cities
* Brazilian demand surging, Europe seen rebounding
By Stuart Grudgings
RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 30 Brazil's President
Dilma Rousseff will sign an agreement with the European Union
next week that aims to completely liberalize air travel between
both sides by 2014 when Brazil hosts the soccer World Cup, a
senior Brazilian aviation agency official said.
The "open skies" agreement between Latin America's largest
economy and the 27-member EU comes as Brazilians' demand for
international travel surges, fueled by a strong currency and
the country's robust economy.
The nationwide 2014 tournament and the Olympic Games in Rio
de Janeiro two years later are expected to draw an influx of
Bruno Dalcolmo, the head of international relations for
Brazil's national aviation agency ANAC, told Reuters in an
interview the deal allows for an increase in flights every 12
months leading to full liberalization by 2014. The first year
after the agreement should see a 20 percent increase in flight
frequency, he said.
Brazil already has separate flight liberalization
agreements with 15 EU member countries.
"It's the conclusion of a liberalization process that's
been going on for the past 3-5 years," Dalcolmo said.
Rousseff will sign the agreement, which was concluded in
March, in Brussels during her week-long visit to Europe next
Over three years the agreement should greatly expand the
options for passengers traveling between Brazil and EU
countries, reducing ticket prices and opening up more direct
routes between smaller Brazilian and European cities.
Dalcolmo pointed to new routes linking the southern city of
Porto Alegre to Lisbon (operated by Portuguese state carrier
TAP) and Rio de Janeiro to Amsterdam (Air France KLM (AIRF.PA))
as examples of the type of direct links that are expected to
grow in the coming years.
The number of passengers traveling between Brazil and
Europe by air rose 11 percent last year to 4.9 million
passengers. Most of the rise was accounted for by strong demand
from Brazilians flush with a strong currency.
Dalcolmo said Brazil expected Europe to bounce back from
its economic woes in the coming years, resulting in greater
demand for flights to a wider range of Brazilian cities than
the traditional hubs of Sao Paulo and Rio.
Brazil is scrambling to expand its airport capacity to meet
surging domestic demand and prepare for an influx of
international visitors for the World Cup, but Dalcolmo said
that airports were prepared for a rise in international
"International flights do not put that much pressure on the
airports. Domestic demand is the main driver behind what we are
seeing these days in Brazilian airports," he said.
The agreement also stipulates that no new international
routes will be added for Sao Paulo's overloaded Guarulhos
airport until after the open-skies liberalization process is
completed in 2014.
Brazil is also negotiating an open-skies agreement with the
United States, which it expects to complete by 2015. Dalcolmo
said Brazil also aimed to secure a formal liberalization
agreement with Argentina, Brazil's second-largest air travel
market after the United States, in the next few years.
(Reporting by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)