French leisure airline Aigle Azur has operated its first long-haul flight, linking Paris Orly with São Paulo in Brazil.

Throughout its 71-year history, Aigle Azur has focused on short- and medium-haul routes. However, in December 2017 the French carrier ordered two Airbus A330-200s to branch out into long-haul.

On July 5, Aigle Azur performed its inaugural commercial transatlantic flight with the first of its A330s, which was delivered two months ago. This kicks off the new 3X-weekly Paris Orly-São Paulo route, which will step up to 5X-weekly by September.

Flight ZI035 took off on schedule at 1015 local time, with a full load of 282 passengers (19 business and 263 economy). The aircraft was met by a traditional water cannon salute on arrival in Brazil.

“This launch is only the beginning,” Aigle Azur CEO Frantz Yvelin said.

São Paulo is the home base of Azul, whose founder David Neeleman has held a 32% stake in Aigle Azur since November. The airline is also part-owned by Chinese tourism and transport group HNA Group.

Yvelin said the route would be operated in codeshare with Azul. “Azul is ‘the’ Brazilian airline, a true standout player in Brazil. Together, we offer our passengers convenient connections to more than 100 destinations in Brazil and Latin America, served by Azul,” he said.

With bases in Lyon, Marseille and Paris, Aigle Azur carries almost 2 million passengers a year, using a fleet of A319s, A320s and now A330s.

Victoria Moores