In the space of a few years and a World Cup, flying in Brazil has changed very little. The experience is pretty good, with a few pitfalls. A few tips can help you along the journey.
Choose your airport strategically: Brazil’s major cities can have several airports and with Brazilian traffic added in, logistics and costs are a big factor with airport selection.
Find a way to/from the airport: taxis can be mega-expensive. Sao Paulo’s GRU has a taxi monopoly and fares to the city start around US$50 and climb up, up, up. Rio’s airport taxis add surcharges for every piece of luggage you are carrying. Some airlines have shuttles for some airports, and there are other transport options, but don’t expect a slick rail link anywhere.
Flight check-in can be slow-moving mayhem: if at all possible use kiosks or online check-in. Here’s a Gol international departure check-in line:
Priority check-in and boarding: is recognized for OneWorld elites (TAM), Delta elites (Gol), and it seems for anyone willing to bluff or push through.
Landside food courts: most of the dining and retail may be landside (before security). Here’s a great food court and viewing platform in Recife:
Airside is skimpy: domestic departures especially can be in small concourses with only a basic cafe and a shop or two:
Domestic security: is a breeze. International is a bit more thorough, though still quite reasonable.
Lounges are few and basic: Gol serves cocktails in plastic bags. There are few domestic lounges. 3rd-party lounges accessed through programs like Priority Pass are mostly cruddy.
ATMs: there may be dozens of ATMs, just be happy if you find one that is operational and that accepts foreign cards (this goes for all Brazil).
Seat reclining: immediately as the captain wraps up the post-takeoff announcement, the seatback in front of you will be violently thrown back. Moments later, it will be thumbed back a few times more.
Frigid: Gol keeps its planes incredibly cold. I don’t remember about TAM. Haven’t flown Azul.
Connections: domestic connections typically involve checking in segment by segment as you travel. Luggage is checked through but, somehow, passengers not. I don’t really understand it but have had it on both Gol and TAM. One time, an agent was able to check me in for my next connection, while the website and kiosk couldn’t, but then that created all kinds of confusion at the next stop as I fell off the connecting list held by the agent at the next airport. Usually there is an agent to greet a flight and get people through a side door to their next connection without exiting and going through security again.
Readers, your tips for flying in Brazil?