SATA International will be rebranded as Azores Airlines this year as it begins taking steps to secure its business as the aviation scene in the island chain heats up.
We reported last month that Ryanair is to set up a base in Ponta Delgada from April 1st, bringing low-cost flights to the Portuguese mainland and further afield for the first time. easyJet is also set to enter the Azores market.
SATA, which offers intra-island services as well as links to Portugal, Europe and North America, will begin a five year scheme to reduce its fleet size and refocus its core business to ensure it remains profitable in the face of increasing competition. Part of this will see the airline focus more on flights to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde islands, Madeira through its SATA Air Acores subsidiary, and to North America.
In 2016 the airline will also establish SATA Serviços, a ground handling company, to be based at the islands’ airports and make money from the new low-cost airlines’ flights.
Part of the airline’s woes have also come from the US Air Force’s decision to remove 500 troops from the joint civil-military airport at Lajes in the Azores. The airline relied upon the presence of the air base here and it will be felt in the local economy once they have gone.