Fortaleza Airport has just received the news the state has been waiting for. One of Europe’s major airline consortiums, Air France and KLM, has chosen the capital of Ceará as its hub. From May next year, direct weekly flights from Fortaleza Airport will connect Northeast Brazil with Paris and Amsterdam. Regional authorities predict a 40% increase in tourism in two years.
Fortaleza Airport has been in the running for the Air France/KLM hub for several months in competition with other airports in Northeast Brazil. However, Fortaleza had the edge over Salvador, Recife and Natal, and Air France authorities announced their decision to go for Ceará on 26 September.
New flights to Fortaleza Airport
The significance of the deal for the state is huge. The Air France/KLM hub will add ten new flights a week. Starting from May 2018, three flights will connect the Ceará capital with Amsterdam and two with Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Air France flights will be operated by the company’s new low-cost subsidiary, Joon. Tickets go on sale next month and a one-way journey from Paris to Fortaleza will cost from €249.
A further four flights will run between Fortaleza and other state capitals in North and Northeast Brazil, namely Recife, Salvador, Belem and Manaus. Gol airlines, also part of the Air France/KLM hub, plans to set up a flight between Fortaleza and Natal from next year.
Fortaleza Airport to international standards
The new Air France/KLM hub will mean Fortaleza Airport acts as the gateway to Brazil for passengers arriving from Europe. Gol plans to increase its flights by 35% over the next two years connecting Ceará with more Brazilian airports, more often.
Improvements in infrastructure at Fortaleza will mean that arriving passengers with connecting flights will have to wait just one hour. This brings Fortaleza Airport up to the highest international standards for airline hubs.
Ceará gateway to Europe
Location was a major deciding factor behind the choice of Fortaleza for the Air France/KLM hub. Ceará is Brazil’s nearest state to Europe. Investments in fibre optic cables and steel manufacturing at Pecem Port have already made the most of this geographical advantage.
Also in Ceará’s favour is the German management of Fortaleza Airport. Fraport AG bought the concession for the airport management earlier this year and have committed R$2.2 billion in improvements to facilities.
The recent boom in the Ceará economy worked in Fortaleza’s favour too. GDP growth in Ceará in Q2 this year reached 2.17% against 0.3% in Brazil as a whole.
Hub broadens horizons
The decision by Air France and KLM will broaden Ceará’s horizons considerably. Not just in terms of tourism, but also for the local economy. State authorities and businesses are unanimous in emphasising the many benefits in store for the area.
Passenger traffic is expected to increase by 40% over the next two years, according to state authority calculations. This will considerably enhance tourism in the state.
“We’ll need more taxi drivers, restaurants, entertainment. It’s more income for people,” said Camilo Santana, Governor of Ceará at the press conference announcing the deal.
The state association of hoteliers (ABIH-CE in Brazilian) applauded the Air France/KLM decision. “Ceará is entering a new era,” said the president Eliseu Barros. “The state will gain considerable visibility on the world tourism stage.”
The state economy too has plenty to gain. The Air France/KLM announcement will act as a magnet for other companies looking to invest in Northeast Brazil. The president of the Ceará Industrial Federation (FIEC in Brazilian), Beto Studart, said “it opened up many possibilities for Ceará”.
(source: ceara.gov.br, Diario do Nordeste)