US Airways wants to launch a direct flight from Charlotte to Rio de Janeiro this year, which would give the Queen City its first daily nonstop service to South America.
Charlotte's dominant carrier said Wednesday that it has applied for the route with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which recently decided to allow more service to the Brazilian city. US Airways would use a Boeing 767 that seats 204 passengers.
The application comes as US Airways and other major airlines have cut domestic service this year, and as the economic downturn has raised concerns about demand for both domestic and international flights.
“Brazil is an attractive market for US Airways and fits well into our commitment to expand our international service,” said Doug Parker, US Airways' chairman and chief executive, in a statement.
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The airline plans to start nonstop flights from Charlotte to Paris on April 21 and already has direct flights to Frankfurt and London. In addition, German airline Lufthansa has a daily Charlotte-Munich flight.
Charlotte is US Airways' largest hub, and much of the airline's international traffic connects from other cities. US Airways also has flights from Charlotte to 22 destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America.
“Expanding our reach to South America from Charlotte is the next logical step,” Parker said.
Other U.S. airlines have asked the federal government about adding routes to Rio de Janeiro. A US Airways spokeswoman said a decision on the routes won't come before Feb. 19 – the due date for airlines to make their case to transportation officials.
It's not the first effort by US Airways to secure a route from Charlotte to South America. In October 2007, the airline asked for permission to fly from Charlotte to Bogota, Colombia. Federal officials instead awarded flights to Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines.