UPDATE 1-Airline Azul expects pretax earnings next year to beat pre-pandemic levels

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(Adds financial details from earnings call, share move)

SAO PAULO, May 6 (Reuters) - Airline Azul SA said on Thursday it expects its 2022 pretax income to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2019, with executives optimistic Brazil will mount a strong economic recovery after a crushing second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Azul said it expects 2022 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of roughly 4 billion reais ($759.95 million), compared with 3.6 billion reais in 2019.

Azul reported a net loss of 2.8 billion reais ($523 million) in the first quarter, narrower than a year ago but wider than in the prior quarter.

Shares fell 2% on the news in Sao Paulo.

Executives told analysts on a call that demand has spiked in April as Brazilian authorities have relaxed restriction measures, with that demand accelerating in the past two weeks.

Azul's chief executive, John Rodgerson, said he has been criticized for being too optimistic in the past, but reiterated that in his view Brazil is poised for a strong recovery, pointing to climbing vaccination rates.

Brazil has the world's second-highest death toll from the pandemic, and President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely condemned for his handling of the health crisis.

Azul was typically Brazil's No. 3 airline in market share, but it has recently taken over the top position as it flies to many more destinations than its main rivals Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and LATAM Airlines Group.

Azul burned through almost 800 million reais of cash and cash equivalents in the quarter, it said, a key measure of a carrier's financial performance. ($1 = 5.2635 reais) (Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paulo Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)

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