Brazil’s GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A., the largest low-cost and low-fare airline in Latin America, completed 10 years of scheduled-service flying on Saturday, January 15.
During the period GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes expanded its fleet from six to 112 aircraft, captured almost a 40 per cent share of the entire Brazilian air transport market and established itself as one of the most profitable and one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world.
“GOL was founded in 2001 with the mission of popularizing air transport in Brazil and South America. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of our almost 19,000 strong workforce and highly efficient management, we have been extremely successful with our strategy of profitable and sustainable growth, based on a low-cost structure with high quality customer service,” says Constantino de Oliveira Junior, GOL’s CEO and founder. “This business model, successfully implemented by GOL for the first time in Brazil, has allowed us to offer lower fares, making air travel increasingly accessible to all.”
GOL boasts that it was the first Brazilian airline to eliminate traditional paper tickets, thereby reducing costs and simplifying customers’ travel experience. It was also the first to allow passengers to check-in entirely by cell phone and the first to permit check-in on domestic flights via iPhone for passengers without accompanying baggage. GOL also launched the buy-on-board service, which the carrier says has proved extremely popular with the public and will be expanded to more than 400 daily flights in 2011 to help boost ancillary revenue.
The airline also claims to have moved into entirely new territory by opening up the Brazilian aviation market to the country’s middle class on a large scale. In its first 10 years, the airline has carried more than 160.5 million passengers, around 10 per cent of whom were first-time flyers. Through GOLLOG, its cargo subsidiary, GOL also claims to have made delivery charges more accessible within Brazil, including express deliveries.
“Right from the beginning, we have undertaken research to discover the habits, taste and wishes of consumers from this emerging middle class in regard to air travel,” says Claudia Pagnano, GOL’s vice-president of market. “The company came into being already studying their behavior, listening to their needs and designing products to meet them. In 2005, for example, we launched Voe Fácil, a program that allows passengers top pay for their tickets in up to 36 installments.”
Adds Pagnano: “Our brand is regarded as being synonymous with accessibility. We were the first to launch creative promotions and we have maintained our commitment to offering prices that are competitive with those charged by the bus companies.”
According to the airline, certain decisions were key in ensuring the success of GOL’s strategy. One was operating a standardized fleet of Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft, thereby reducing costs and ensuring high aircraft utilization ratios.
Second was deciding to employ the internet as GOL’s primary sales channel, not only for flying customers but also for travel agencies. Third was focusing on innovation and technology to leverage results and efficiency. Fourth was to have a highly efficient and motivated workforce to ensure excellent service quality.
“Innovation really is the secret of GOL’s success and its low-cost structure and high growth rates are due to a continuous process of reinvention and the pursuit of higher productivity, quality, safety and intelligence in the company’s processes and areas of activity,” says Ricardo Khauaja, GOL’s vice-president of management and personnel.