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In April 1980 Hélio Smidt becomes the new VARIG’s president, which under his command, expanded even more its domestic and international network, but focusing in Brazil’s interior cities. Hélio Smidt also assured fleet modernization with Boeing 737, 747 and 767. He led the company into an extremely dynamic philosophy and gave much value to man and teamwork. VARIG lost some of its brightness when Helio Smidt gone, in April 1990.

On February 12, 1981 VARIG acquired its first Jumbo jet. The three Boeing 747-200 initially operated on Rio de Janeiro - New York route and was an immediate hit among passengers. So years later, in 1985, VARIG acquired two more units, this time Boeing 747-300.

Another new feature was the Airbus A300, initially received by Cruzeiro, in 1981. The Airbus increased comfort on the domestic routes to a new level, offering wide seats, two aisles, eight bathrooms, individual music channels and two classes of service, everything unheard of on national routes until then.

In 1987 VARIG received the new generation wide-body jet Boeing 767-200ER. VARIG was the first airline in the world to operate B767 equipped with General Electric engines. The following year, fleet modernization arrived on domestic routes, with the first Boeing 737-300. They became the main aircraft for short and medium range flights, including the replacement of Electra II in Rio de Janeiro - São Paulo route.

In the 1980s VARIG continued to expand its extensive international network reaching Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Canada, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama. With the new destinations, the company reached its record, 42 foreign cities in 33 countries in its international network. In 1984, VARIG inaugurated its Catering Center in Rio de Janeiro, the largest, most complete and most sophisticated in the Americas.

On June 1st, 1988, VARIG's international network underwent a major change. With the inauguration of Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo, it was a matter of time for most flights be transferred from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo, which had long been the largest city in Brazil and the largest traffic generator. From that day, VARIG started its HUB in São Paulo, with the start of non-stop flights between Sao Paulo and Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Paris and Zurich. These flights were "triangular flight", where they also used Galeão airport in Rio de Janeiro (VARIG's main HUB yet). For example, Sao Paulo - Rio de Janeiro - Paris - São Paulo - Rio de Janeiro.

 


Ceremony for the two first Boeing 747


VARIG's Cartering / Boeing 747-200


First Boeing 767-200 (Museu VARIG)

 

                              HOW WAS FLYING IN THE 1980s?

The glamor of the 60s and 70s began to lose some brightness with the "low cost, low fare" airlines. The economy class was the one that lost more services, but it still had abundant hot food and drinks such wine and whiskey. However, the glamor in First Class still intact. Also in the 80s, the Executive Class become something common in international flights.
 

On September 1st, 1982, the first VARIG's flight with Executive Class took off. The flight RG810, from Rio de Janeiro to Miami, operated with DC-10 launched a new class service between Economy Class and First Class, following the world trend. The new class offered more spacious seats and with greater reclination. The Business Class was designed for business travelers with more privacy, comfort and sophisticated on-board service than the Economy Class, but without the excessive luxury of First Class. Over time and with Business Class consolidation, Economy Class become more "economical", with simpler service and cheaper fares. The threat of low cost, low fare airlines in the USA and Europe has forced traditional airlines to reinvent themselves and become more competitive, being able to offer cheaper tickets to keep alive.

In the 1980s, the number of seats in First Class declined, giving way to Business Class, but the glamor remained the same. Long-haul flights turned into a five-star restaurant in the meal time. It started with drinks, accompanied by hot and cold canapés, followed by Beluga caviar, Strasbourg Foie Gras, Melon with Parma ham and gratin onion soup. Then came entree, salads, main course and desserts, including items such as full Gaucho barbecue and French cheeses.

 

 

80s

VARIG Fleet:
02xAirbus A300B4

04xBoeing 707-300
05xBoeing 707-300F
07xBoeing 727-100
03xBoeing 727-100F
12xBoeing 737-200
03xBoeing 737-300
03xBoeing 747-200
02xBoeing 747-300
04xBoeing 767-200ER
11xDouglas DC-10-30
01xDouglas DC-10-30F

13xLockheed L188 Electra II
TOTAL: 70

Cruzeiro Fleet:
02xAirbus A300B4
07xBoeing 727-100

06
xBoeing 737-200

TOTAL: 15

Rio Sul Fleet:
07xEmbraer EMB-110
02xEmbraer EMB-120
04xFokker F-27

TOTAL: 13

President:
Hélio Smidt

 

Domestic destinations:
43 cities

International destinations:
Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Asuncion, Santa Cruz de La Sierra, La Paz, Lima, Bogota, Caracas, Quito, Guayaquil, Cayenne, Paramaribo, Panama City, San Jose, Mexico City, Port of Spain, Bridgetown, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Lisbon, Oporto, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Roma, Milan, Zurich, Frankfurt, Munich, London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Luanda, Abidjan, Lagos, Maputo, Tokyo

 

Passengers: 142 million (average 14,21 million per year)

 

 


VARIG's internacional route map in 1988 / Business Class / Hangar in Rio de Janeiro

 

 

 

                              FOCUS: Varig and Cruzeiro flying together

In 1975 Varig bought Cruzeiro and started to dominate 100% of international market. Thenceforth VARIG and Cruzeiro flew together until 90s, when Cruzeiro brand finally disappeared. But these two airlines shared many more things, even before the purchase.
VARIG was the first airline of Brazil, founded in May 1927 and started operations through Condor Syndikat, who rented Dornier Wal - VARIG's first aircraft. Cruzeiro was the second airline of Brazil, founded in December 1927 as Condor Syndikat subsidiary and operated VARIG's Dornier Wal, after Condor Syndikat take it back. Also, both had German origins and their stories were closely linked. While VARIG remained as a regional airline, Cruzeiro grew and become the second most important airline in Brazil, with flights throughout Brazil and various destinations in South America.
On October 2, 1947 Cruzeiro received authorization to fly to the USA (New York and Washington) and received three Douglas DC-4 to operate the route. The company even made some test flights but wanted  Brazilian government's help. The government did not accept Cruzeiro give up to operate the route. Who won the route was VARIG, in 1952. So VARIG ordered Lockheed Super G Constellation and began flights to New York in June 1955, no longer a regional airline. In 1961 VARIG bought Real-Aerovias-Nacional and in 1965 gained Panair do Brazil's international to Europe, becoming the largest airline in Latin America. Meanwhile Cruzeiro was the third largest in Brazil, behind VARIG and VASP. Beyond that Cruzeiro and VARIG were the only with international routes, which helped a lot financially, as they  received in dollars, a protection against currency fluctuations.
In 1964 started the military regime in Brazil and the aviation market was fully controlled by government. After the oil shock in 1973, airlines worldwide went into financial difficulties. In Brazil the government thought that were too many airlines and should be only two airlines. The government encourage VASP to purchase Cruzeiro and Transbrasil and thus divide the market between Varig (60%) and VASP (40%).
While negotiations between VASP and Cruzeiro continued, VARIG was buying shares of Cruzeiro. Ultimately Cruzeiro had two proposals: VASP with $60 million and VARIG with $80 million. Besides offered a higher value, VARIG had already about 30% of Cruzeiro share.
On 22 May 1975 Cruzeiro's president announced the sale to Fundação Ruben Berta  (VARIG's owner). Vasp reaction was immediate, claiming for redistribution of routes. In the end Brazilian government announced that would not intervene and the important was to reduce the number of airlines. The government also continued to encourage the merger between VASP and Transbrasil, which never happened.
After the purchase VARIG said that Cruzeiro brand would continue operating, but Cruzeiro's fleet was significantly reduced. Cruzeiro's fleet stagnated with eight Boeing 727-100 and six Boeing 737-200. VARIG also use Cruzeiro brand to test new products and services, as  Airbus A300B4. The A300 made great success among the passengers and VARIG also started to operate A300. In December 1982, Cruzeiro also test Douglas DC-9-80 (or MD-80). McDonnell Douglas expected that VARIG liked the aircraft and ordered a fleet to operate domestic and South American routes. VARIG enjoy MD-80, but chose to order only Boeing 737. The MD-80 was returned in 1983.
During 80s and early 90s the Boeing 727-100 were gradually being phased out. The A300B4 were deactivated in 1989. In 1992 Cruzeiro's fleet was only six Boeing 737-200. On January 1, 1993 Cruzeiro officially ceased, but its aircraft could be seen until 1997, when the last Boeing 737-200 was painted in VARIG colors.
 

 

 

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