TAM started flying on February 21, 1961, after a group of pilots, headed by Rolim Adolfo Amaro, began transporting passengers and cargo around the states of Parana, Sao Paulo and Mato Grosso. At the beginning, small Cessna types were used for the operation.
TAM Airbus A330-200.|
Captain Amaro became frustrated because he thought that the best way for the airline to be successful would be by the company's employees establishing direct contact with their customers. As a result of his beliefs he left TAM briefly to fly for another airline, named BCN. Soon after, he was able to buy a Cessna 170 with capability to fly three passengers.
In 1966 TAM was moved to Sao Paulo and was able to buy its first twin engine planes. Prior to that, the airline had been sold to the Ometto group, headed by Orlando Ometto, a personal friend of Amaro. Amaro was invited to re-join TAM in 1971 as a minority shareholder and chief of business by Ometto, and he brought back with him the idea that a company's personnel had to establish personal contact with the company's customers and started working towards the goal of making TAM a customer friendly airline almost immediately.
In 1973, TAM received the first radio-equipped planes in Brazil, 10 Cessna 402 planes, and in 1976, Amaro became the principal share holder, with 98 percent of the airline's stock belonging to him. In 1976 a secondary airline was established, when TAM Transportes Aereos Regionais began with one Bandeirante plane, Amaro holding 67 percent of the stock of the new company.
The airline maintained a slow but steady growth, and, in 1980, their first Fokker F-27 planes arrived, to be used on the regional routes to which the airline dedicated itself exclusively during that era. By 1981, TAM had flown 1 million passengers, and that figure reached 2 million by 1984.
In 1986, an important development shaped the airline when it acquired rival VOTEC, earning access to areas in northern and central Brazil. The new acquisition would at first be named Brazil Central, but then its name was also submerged into that of TAM, becoming TAM Transportes Aereos Meridionais.
In 1988, TAM flew its 3 millionth passenger.
In 1990, the airline entered the jet age, when it received two small Fokker-100 jets. In 1992, TAM carried its eight millionth passenger, and in 1994 TAM earned several awards, while Mr. Amaro was named the salesman of the year. TAM also established an airline in Paraguay that year, named ARPA.
In 1995, TAM won the award for the best regional airline in the world according to Air Transport World Magazine.
In 1996, TAM bought another air company, Helisul, which soon started using the trade name of TAM too, and in 1997, TAM ordered its first big jets, 45 planes from Airbus: 10 A330's, 4 A319's, and 34 A320's.
Two years later, in 1999, another milestone was reached by the airline, when services to Europe were inaugurated, through a code share service with Air France to Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris.