UPDATE 2-Brazil's Azul adds Airbus jets to start U.S. flights
(Adds CEO's quote, details of business plan, share performance)
By Brad Haynes
CAMPINAS, Brazil, April 23 (Reuters) - Brazil's third-biggest airline, Azul Linhas Aereas, unveiled plans on Wednesday to add 11 wide-body jets from European planemaker Airbus to start service to the United States.
Azul said it would receive six Airbus A330-200s in early 2015, when the airline will begin flying overseas, and five Airbus A350-900 jets starting in early 2017.
Together the planes are worth close to $2 billion at list prices, executives said at a news conference near Azul's hub in Campinas, outside Sao Paulo. The airline has secured leasing deals from industry financier ILFC for eight of the planes. It is still negotiating the lease or purchase of three A330s.
The selection of Airbus planes, first reported on Tuesday by Reuters, is another blow to U.S. rival Boeing Co in Latin America's biggest market. Boeing also lost out on a coveted Brazilian fighter jet contract in December.
The expansion will transform Azul, which is controlled by JetBlue Airways Corp founder David Neeleman, from a niche regional carrier into an international player directly challenging heavyweight Latam Airlines Group SA, which controls Brazil's No. 1 carrier, TAM Linhas Aereas.
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