Brazilian airline Gol has announced that it has received ANAC (Brazil's National Civil Aviation Agency) approval to implement its new integrated route network. The new timetable, currently available on the company's website, will be effective beginning October 19, 2008.
The new network compliments the company's unified structure by eliminating overlapping routes and schedules between Gol and Varig. The new network will also improve flight occupancy levels by allowing the Gol to increase offerings in markets where it has consolidated operations while also allowing for new connections between previously unlinked cities.
"These network changes, implemented to optimize operations and increase customer options, position Gol as the airline company with the most extensive and convenient timetable in South America," says Wilson Maciel Ramos, Gol's vice-president for planning and IT. "We now offer approximately 800 daily flights to 49 destinations in Brazil and ten important international destinations in South America."
Under the new route network, Gol will operate the domestic flights and short-haul flights to Asuncion (Paraguay), Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Rosario (Argentina), Montevideo (Uruguay), Lima (Peru, via Santiago), Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia) and Santiago (via Buenos Aires).
Varig will operate medium-haul international flights to Bogota (Colombia), Caracas (Venezuela) and Santiago (Chile). This division was based on a profile of international passengers traveling on flights longer than four hours, who are predominantly business travelers and prefer more complete service.
In Brazil's domestic market, Gol has improved the time and frequency of flights at Congonhas Airport (São Paulo), the company's main hub in the country. For example, the company will launch new direct flights to Londrina, Maringá and Caxias do Sul.
Gol should also offer more convenient schedules to popular destinations for business traveler, including the Rio de Janeiro (Santos Dumont) - São Paulo (Congonhas) air shuttle, with departures every 30 minutes.
At the regional level, the company strengthened connections between Fortaleza, Manaus, Recife and Salvador, major hubs in the Northern and Northeast regions. To improve operations in regional markets, Gol will also launch direct flights between Cuiabá and Porto Velho, Curitiba and Campo Grande, Rio de Janeiro (Tom Jobim-Galeão) and Manaus, and João Pessoa and Salvador.
Direct flights from Belo Horizonte (Confins) to Recife, Goiânia, Curitiba and Uberlândia were also created. From the federal capital, Brasília, Gol will offer direct flights to Campo Grande and Vitória. With these new flights, customers in these regions will have easier access to all destinations in the integrated route network.
In the international market the company has changed the departure times of Varig flights departing from Bogota (Colombia), Caracas (Venezuela) and Santiago (Chile) to São Paulo. These changes will offer more direct connections when a customer's final destination is Rio de Janeiro. Similar changes were also made to Gol service between Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia) to São Paulo.
Gol is also launching a new "Comfort Class" on Varig's medium-haul international flights. Beginning October 16 flights from Rio de Janeiro (Tom Jobim-Galeão) and São Paulo (Governor André Franco Montoro International Airport, also known as Cumbica or Guarulhos) to Bogota, Caracas and Santiago served by Varig's Boeing 737-800 will offer the new class.
According to Gol, the comfort class provides passengers more legroom between seats, increased privacy, a 25% bonus to accumulated Smiles miles, additional meal choices and on-demand entertainment during the flight.
"The Comfort Class aims to not only increase our passengers comfort during the flight but throughout their entire trip," says Tarcísio Gargioni, Gol's vice president for marketing and services.
Passengers will also have access to an exclusive check-in desk and priority boarding. Passengers' luggage, which has an extra ten kilo allowance, will also be the first loaded to the aircraft's cargo bay.
Additionally, customers will be able wait for their flight in the company's International Smiles VIP lounges in Brazil (Guarulhos and Tom Jobim- Galeão airports) or in partner airlines' VIP lounges including Avianca's Bogota lounge, American Airlines' Caracas lounge, and LAN Airlines' Santiago lounge.
Once onboard, passengers are promised "an advanced system of individual on board entertainment: the Portable Entertainment Appliance (PEA)." Through a touch screen, customers can view feature films, variety programs, sitcoms, cartoons, video clips and a wide range of music and games.
"In addition, the cabin crew will provide passengers with portable foot massage units and anti-stress balls during the flight," adds Gargioni. "Through the addition of the Comfort Class, we are aiming to make Varig the first choice for medium-haul flights in South America."
Gol has also enhanced its in-flight service offering on domestic flights. Beginning October 19, the company will provide customers with a variety of snacks, beverages and candy on shorter flights. On trips exceeding two hours, the company will offer sandwiches or snacks as well as beverages and candy.
"Gol will continue operating on its low-cost management platform and offering lower fares, but will provide customers with a variety of new services," says Gargioni. "We are adding additional amenities to our in-flight service in response to company-sponsored customer research but are always working to maintain the low-cost structure the company was founded on."
"Our customer will rarely find the same snack on-board our aircraft, including those with multiple connections," adds Gargioni.