Azul SA founder David Neeleman may sell a stake in the Brazilian airline’s loyalty plan through an initial public offering or to a private investor to raise funds during the country’s economic crisis.

“You can never have too much money when times are bad,” Neeleman said in a telephone interview, without giving a timetable. “We have options — there are a lot of people interested in our frequent-flier program.”

An IPO for the TudoAzul loyalty operation might come ahead of one for the airline itself, which began flying in 2008 and has postponed share sales at least twice because of slumping equity markets. Azul is seeking new sources of cash as Brazil slides into a recession that analysts predict will be the longest since the 1930s.

Brazil’s third-largest carrier isn’t growing as fast as it could because of the economy and the suspension of government subsidies for regional flights, said Neeleman, 55, who is chief executive officer and also created New York-based JetBlue Airways Corp.

“We’ve pulled out of a few cities,” Neeleman said Tuesday. “It’s time to batten down the hatches, preserve cash and ride it out.”

A TudoAzul IPO would follow similar moves since 2010 by rival carriers Gol and Tam, the Brazilian unit of Latam Airlines Group SA. Frequent-flier programs make money by selling miles to banks or hotels to give to customers, earning interest on the cash before awards are redeemed by customers.

Cash Position

Azul ended the second quarter with about 1 billion reais ($276 million), including $100 million from United Continental Holdings Inc. United took a 5 percent stake in Barueri, Brazil- based Azul in June.

Another deal similar to the United transaction or a sale and lease-back of assets are among options for Azul to raise money, said Neeleman, who didn’t give details. Airlines often sell planes to lessors while retaining the aircraft on lease.

The addition of Airbus Group NV A320neos starting next year will help lower costs, and fares, making Azul more competitive, Neeleman said. The carrier’s jet fleet consists mostly of smaller Embraer SA aircraft.

Azul announced the Azul Brazil Air Pass on Tuesday, offering unlimited flights throughout the country for passengers originating in the U.S. on flights by Azul or United. Azul started flying to the U.S. in December, and targets sales of 10,000 passes by Nov. 30, Neeleman said.

This article was written by Christiana Sciaudone from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Tags: azul, ipo, loyalty
Photo Credit: Tudo Azul's branded credit card. Azul