Brazilian airline Azul has agreed to buy 220 of Lilium’s eVTOL aircraft and is in talks with the German company to develop a network of commercial flights that could start in 2025. The provisional purchase agreement is valued at $1 billion, implying a unit price for the seven-seat all-electric Lilium Jet of $4.5 million.
The partners intend to co-brand scheduled services in a country that typically has around 100 million domestic airline passengers each year. Brazil is a strong market for business jets and also for chartered helicopter flights, which are commonly used to avoid serious road gridlock in major cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Under the terms of a commercial agreement that is still to be finalized, Azul is expected to operate and maintain the Lilium Jet fleet and also support the manufacturer’s efforts to secure the necessary type certification and operational approvals in Brazil. Lilium will provide an aircraft health monitoring platform, along with replacement batteries and other spare parts.
The Lilium Jet will be flown by a single pilot and carry up to six passengers on trips of up to 155 miles, cruising at 10,000 feet at speeds of 175 mph. It will be able to take off and land in urban vertiports as well as at airports where it could provide connections to longer scheduled airline flights.
“Azul is the largest domestic airline in Brazil in terms of cities served and daily departures,” said Azul CEO John Rodgerson. “Our brand presence, our unique route network, and our powerful loyalty program give us the tools to create the markets and demand for the Lilium Jet network in Brazil.”
Lilium already has plans to launch commercial eVTOL services in Europe and in the U.S., starting with plans for a network across Florida. It is aiming to launch operations in 2024, once the Lilium Jet completes type certification, initially under EASA’s jurisdiction in Europe.
Brazil is the home market for aircraft manufacturer Embraer, and its Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions division is developing a four-passenger eVTOL aircraft, which will have a range of up to 60 miles. The company recently announced purchase agreements with several prospective operators, including Brazil-based Helisul Aviation and on-demand charter broker Flapper.
Lilium announced the deal early on August 2, a few hours ahead of its Capital Markets Day event. The start-up is pursuing a flotation on New York’s Nasdaq market through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Qell Acquisition Corp.
Once this $830 million deal closes, former Tesla executive Gabrielle Toledano and air transport industry veteran Henri Courpron will join Lilium’s board of directors. Total gross proceeds from the transaction will include $380 million in cash and funds from a $450 million Private Investment in Public Equity (PIPE) investment with backers including Baillie Gifford, BlackRock, Tencent, Ferrovial, LGT/Lightrock, Palantir, FII Institute, and PIMCO. The combined company is expected to be valued at around $3.3 billion based on the $10 PIPE share price.
Toledano is currently the chief operating officer of Keystone Strategy. She previously held senior leadership roles at Electronic Arts, Siebel Systems, Comcast Ventures, Microsoft, and Oracle.
Courpron is founder and chairman of Plane View Partners and a former CEO of airliner leasing group ILFC and Airbus North America. He is also a former director of Azul and of Portuguese carrier TAP. Lilium’s board is chaired by Airbus group CEO Tom Enders.