TAM-Linhas customers enjoy scores of indulgent perks. Sufficient employees are on hand to keep them from waiting in line at the airport, where they enjoy buffets and live music in TAM lounges before takeoff.
But most unusually, TAM passengers stroll down a red carpet to the plane's staircase-where, on flights leaving SÌo Paulo, the 52-year-old Mr. Amaro greets them.
As a result, sales are soaring. TAM racked up $192 million in sales from 1.2 million customers in 1993, up from $60 million and 400,000 passengers in 1990.
And TAM was Brazil's only airline to make a profit last year-$4.8 million, up 220% from 1992. By contrast, Varig, the country's largest of three national airlines, lost $580 million for the past two years, while Transbrasil, the smallest of the three, lost $80 million. No. 2 VASP lost $280 million last year and is $1 billion in debt. But Mr. Amaro aims to fly 1.5 million people and reach $264 million in sales this year.
The secret of Mr. Amaro's success with TAM is targeting an upscale business-oriented sector, which responds very positively to his personal relationship marketing tactics.
"They want personalized service, a timetable that is upheld, a fleet of new airplanes and older, more experienced pilots," says Mr. Amaro. But they get much more: Free cellular phone service where available, discount accommodations in five-star hotels and even superior food.
The former shopkeeper and private pilot focused the airline's efforts by limiting its routes to the SÌo Paulo-Rio de Janeiro-Belo Horizonte triangle, the path of 60% of Brazil's air traffic. Its regional status allows it to serve these cities' downtown airports, preferred by business travelers.
Indeed, TAM's traffic is up despite costs 80% higher than those of rival airlines on the same routes. A flight from downtown SÌo Paulo to Curitiba costs a phenomenal $347 on TAM, compared with $166 from the international airport on rival Varig.
Taking his personalized service approach even further, Mr. Amaro has introduced "Talk to the President," where he personally answers 500 customers on a toll-free line every month. He also answers 400 passenger letters monthly.
But he hasn't abandoned mass communication as Grupo TAM invested $3 million last year on conventional advertising, handled by Salles/Interamericana de Publicidade, Sao Paulo, and sponsorship of soccer team Sao Paulo Futebol Clube.
"We linked our name to that of [the team] because they are a winning team," he says.