Brazil's biggest airline saw 5 pct drop in traffic during World Cup

SAO PAULO, July 16 Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:07pm EDT

SAO PAULO, July 16 (Reuters) - Domestic passenger traffic for Brazilian airline TAM, the country's biggest, fell 5 percent during the World Cup soccer tournament, not as much as expected, as travel by soccer fans partially offset a drop in business travel, the carrier's chief executive said at a news conference Thursday.

The local unit of Latam Airlines Group SA had expected a 10 percent slump in traffic from a year earlier due to the loss of business travel, but the month-long World Cup helped lure more than a million foreigners to the country.

"We saw unprecedented demand in Brazil from Chileans, Australians - even Iranians," said TAM CEO Claudia Sender. The airline carried 3 million domestic passengers between June 12 and July 13.

While more modest than originally forecast, the drop in air traffic during the World Cup eased the burden at crowded airports in Brazil's twelve host cities. Many of them suspended work on long-delayed upgrades during the tournament.

Sender did not give financial results for TAM during the period, but said average ticket prices were down from a year earlier due to the lack of business travel. (Reporting by Roberta Vilas Boas; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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