The Gol Brazil flying experience – schizophrenic

Gol, Tam and Azul-Trip dominate Brazil’s domestic aviation market. Gol partners with Delta, Tam is Star Alliance (for now, at least), and Azul-trip is on its own.

Regular readers will know my unsucessful battles to redeem Delta SkyMiles on Gol, and for my Salvador (SSA) –  São Paulo Congonhas (CGH) – Rio Santos Dumont (SDU) trip I had to book a revenue ticket.

Salvador Airport check-in was mayhem, I slipped to the elite line with my Delta Diamond Medallion card though no one was checking anyway, and then I had to push my way to the counter. The plane was old, extremely cramped seating, and it was a challenge to get a cup of water as the flight attendants whizzed by anyone not willing to make a purchase, and that after nearly 1.5 hours of them chatting and laughing in the back.

The transfer at São Paulo required re-check-in, fortunately we had no checked luggage so could use the transfer desk, those with luggage had to go to baggage claim, collect luggage, and head to check-in. I don’t understand Portuguese but I can now tell when Brazilians are furious.

Brazil 095

The shuttle from São Paulo to Rio was totally different: new, comfortable plane, a snack box, pleasant flight attendants. My assumption is they fiercely compete with Tam for business travelers on that route.

Two flights is too small a sample to judge, and it was startling to have such drastically different experiences.

As for Delta SkyMiles credit, at Salvador quite a few minutes of effort produced nothing on the boarding pass, at São Paulo the new boarding passes showed our SkyMiles numbers, but neither showed up in our accounts. After six weeks we faxed them in to Delta and the miles posted overnight.

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  1. Unfortunately, GOL charges for meals on every flight with 1.5 hours or more.
    TAM and AZUL offer them for free in every flight.
    Since the flights from Rio to Sao Paulo is a shuttle service, so they usually make the service better.
    Unfortunately Brazilian airports infrastructure is far behind from being developed. Government now is running against the clock to make them more efficiently for the World Cup in 2014.

  2. Gol and TAM do battle fiercely for the very lucrative one-hour route between Sao Paulo and Rio, with probably 15+ flights per day, because it’s such a heavily trafficked business route. I read somewhere last year that it was one of the three most costly (ticket-wise) routes in the world.

    You left out a fourth airline option, Avianca Brasil, formerly known as Ocean Air. It’s owned by the major Avianca and is slowly being fully transitioned over. You could only see that airline in a search result on a Brazilian travel site (most of which Brazilians can’t buy from), or Avianca.com.

    One site I have been able to walk a foreigner through a successful ticket purchase on was decolar.com (the Brazilian version). I don’t think there was an English language button on the homepage, but if you can get through the Portuguese you can buy a ticket there, you should just call your credit card provider in advance to say you are about to use that card on a Brazilian travel site, otherwise the purchase will likely be declined.

  3. The Rio-SP Shuttle is a business commuter flight and has some of the nicer service I have seen in domestic flights anywhere. New planes, good (free) food, drink, wifi, generous seats, and dirt cheap. If you plan ahead you can get a flight for US$50 each way without much trouble. I know people who take it daily to commute to work and love it.

  4. I strongly recommend Avianca Brasil. There is much more space between the seats, service is excellent, and soft drinks and food (at best a hot sandwich) are free. However, they offer miles only in their own domestic Brazilian program — no miles in any international program, even Avianca’s.

  5. I had a terrible experience travelling with GO airlines. They lost my bags both ways of my trip. In may way back from Brazil, all my bags were lost and one of it carrying all my weeding contents has not been found. It has been 8 days now. They have no information, no number to call and no even a recommendation of where the bag may be. All bags were checked with GO. They just not care.

  6. Do not travel with Go airlines. They lost my bags both ways of my trip. They have no information of where my bags may be or not even care to direct me to the right place. My bag carrying all my weeding contents has been lost for over 8 days and no one know nothing about it. I have all the bag’s tags and they know it. Very sad! They just do not care.

  7. You mention your struggles trying to redeem skymiles on Gol. I tried searching your other posts but couldn’t find more information about what exactly you mean. Was there never space available? Did the Delta agents not know how to book? I’m looking into doing the same thing, booking intra-Brazil flights on Gol using skymiles. Thanks!

  8. @Joseph – sorry, I am often guilty of jumping from topic to topic. I have heard SkyMiles on Gol has gotten better. When I was trying to book, on the same routes Tam via United had much, much more availability. FlightStats can show availability, I is business, X is economy, however like with some carriers like Saudia, it can be tough to get FlightStats to show certain flights at all, sometimes need to search for a connecting flight that includes the segment you want. My biggest issue is I wanted to redeem on ultra-expensive Fernando de Noronha flights. Best I could find with many calls is that it is blocked entirely from Delta redemptions. Even Gol when I searched only had a few dates over a 12 month period. So frustrated after searching 9 months day by day to finally find Gol availability and then not be able to book it.

  9. So if X space shows for a Gol flight on FlightStats, does that mean that Delta should allow me to book it for 10,000 SkyMiles? I’m interested in flying from Sao Paolo (GRU) to Fortaleza and maybe Recife. Think I’ll run into the same problem you did with Fernando de Noronha? This will be during the World Cup, though I’m still seeing a decent number of X seats available.

    Thanks so much!

  10. Joseph – yes, it should work. Since my last attempts Delta has stepped up its investment and integration with Gol, for instance recognizing Sky Priority-like benefits, so it may be better. Key as always with Delta is finding an agent who understands how to book Gol and is willing to try. If they let you book Fernando de Noronha, please let me know, I will be the next to book!

  11. Most excellent, thank you again! It’s been hard to find this information and this is incredibly helpful.

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