The Air France KLM hub started its inaugural flights to Fortaleza Airport on Thursday 3rd of May. The first arrivals were two direct flights from Paris and Amsterdam. The same day saw new domestic flights run by GOL Airlines. Ceará state authorities expect the new flight hub to boost tourism figures and drive the local economy forward through exports.
Since the German company Fraport took over the concession of Fortaleza Airport in 2017, more international flight connections have been on the cards for Ceará. The decision to base the Air France KLM hub in Fortaleza arrived late last year with the first flights touching down this spring.
First flights arrive
The new service between Sao Paulo and Fortaleza chartered by GOL was the first of the hub flights to arrive at Fortaleza Airport. GOL, also part of the Air France KLM hub, has chosen to expand its operations within Brazil from Fortaleza with new domestic services to key cities.
The inaugural flight between Amsterdam and Fortaleza brought the first KLM passengers directly from the Dutch capital to this part of Northeast Brazil. The first direct plane from Paris touched down shortly afterwards, run by Joon, the low-cost arm of Air France.
All three new flights were received with honours and ‘christened’ with water jets once they had landed on the runway. Regional and local authorities held a reception at the airport to give an official welcome to the new Air France KLM hub.
“This is a dream we’ve been working towards since Fraport took over the concession,” said Camilo Santa, governor of Ceará. Arialdo Pinho, head of SETUR the state tourist board, said that he was proud of the achievement and that the hub “opens a new stage for tourism in Ceará and Northeast Brazil”.
Effects of the Air France KLM hub
The immediate effects of the new flight hub are already apparent with the arrival of more international and domestic tourists to Fortaleza. SETUR calculates that the new direct flights between Amsterdam and Paris plus others planned for this year will boost foreign visitor figures to over 70,000 this year. They expect numbers to rise to 150,000 in two years.
Domestic tourism will also see a sharp increase. The additional flights will bring 1.5 million Brazilians to the region over the next year. Brazilian visitors make up the majority of tourism in the region, particularly favoured by tourists from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Ceará industry can expect a boost too. Exporters of fruit, plants and fresh flowers are already taking advantage of the new direct flights to transport fresh produce to Europe and Asia. Local businesses will export around 120 tonnes a week via the Air France KLM hub.
Reasons for choosing Fortaleza Airport
Air France and KLM set their sights on Fortaleza Airport for several reasons. The first was its proximity to Europe. Ceará is the nearest part of Brazil to Europe and Africa, a geographical advantage that has favoured the state not only for flights but for shipping routes and submarine cables.
Fortaleza Airport is also a good strategic base for Northeast Brazil generally. This region of the country is the nation’s favourite holiday destination and a key source of tourist revenue. The capital of Ceará offers easy access to other Northeast capitals such as Bahia, Recife and Natal.
Airport upgrades were another major factor in the choice of Fortaleza Airport as the Air France KLM hub. Fraport is currently making considerable investment into improvements at the airport over the next two years. These include expansion of the check-in area and upgrading arrivals and departures.
(Sources: O Povo, Globo)