Brazil's Azul mulls adding Embraer jets-CEO

SAO PAULO, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Brazil's third largest airline, privately held Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras, might take advantage of a slackened delivery schedule at aircraft maker Embraer EMBR3.SAERJ.N to order more planes for 2010, the carrier's chief executive said on Wednesday.

Azul, which began operations eight months ago, expects to break even despite an economic slowdown that threatens to crimp air travel.

As airlines in the United States and Europe cancel orders in the wake of the global economic recession, Azul sees an opportunity to grab more market share from Brazilian industry leaders TAM TAMM4.SA and Gol GOLL4.SA, said CEO Pedro Janot.

“What we have are opportunities as European and North American companies cede their spaces in Embraer’s queue,” Janot said, adding that the new orders might be placed next year.

By offering low fares and point-to-point routes to underserved cities with no layovers, Azul has found demand for affordable air travel in a country where only 5 percent of the population regularly flies and most people travel by bus. Load factor, or the rate of seats occupied at flights, at Azul topped 80 percent this year, compared with an average 64 percent at TAM and Gol.

Janot declined to say whether Azul would either buy or lease the Embraer planes or how much the company would be willing to pay for the jets. He said Azul will stick with Embraer jets for at least 10 years and isn’t mulling to buy jets from other manufacturers.

The company currently has 12 Embraer jets in its fleet, which might grow to 14 by the end of 2009.

Common shares of Embraer, based in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, rose 0.5 percent to 10.45 reais. They have dropped 24.4 percent in the past 12 months. (Reporting by Alberto Alerigi Jr.; additional reporting by Luciana Lopez; writing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; editing by Leslie Gevirtz)