I can’t think of a company that has so comprehensively betrayed its starting ethos as Gol Airlines.

Before starting Gol in 2001, Constantino de Oliveira Jr. visited low cost, low fare airlines around the world to see how they worked.

He then came home to Brazil and set up a similar model by, he told me in 2005, “taking a bit of Southwest, a bit of Ryanair, a bit of JetBlue, and Easyjet and tropicalizing them for the Brazilian market.”

De Oliveira Jr.’s preparation paid off handsomely.  Gol took on established carriers Varig and Tam and won. Varig went bankrupt – in part because of the cheap competition provided by Gol – and Tam is now neck and neck in market share with the erstwhile upstart.

But Gol, rather than continue with its progressive policy, betrayed itself and its customers by becoming the new Varig. As soon as it could, it hiked fares and abandoned any pretensions to offering customers a cheap and quality alternative to the so-called legacy carriers.

Online right now, it is selling flights from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo for a minimum of 727 reais, one way. (Prices are for tomorrow’s flights.)

That is more than twice the cheapest flight available tomorrow from Edinburgh to London on British Airways (which is incidentally a shorter distance).

Gol last year bought Webjet, a startup low cost, low fare airline, and took over some of its routes.

Now we find out it is charging three times what Webjet charged for the same trips (see more in this Portuguese language story from today’s Folha de S. Paulo).

Gol’s aim is clearly to wipe out any such carriers so it can continue with its price gauging. Its resposne to the Folha story was that it is not breaking any laws.

Maybe not, but de Oliveira Jr. (who, by the way, heads one of the poorest press operations I’ve ever come across) should be ashamed.