Airports, Airlines, Aviation

Rio Airport – Skip It and Just Get to the World Cup

You may think, really? The Rio Airport (GIG)? But, they’ve reported to have invested seriously in the infrastructure and guest amenities in the past few years in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Maybe it’s time to give the Rio Airport (aka the Antonio Carlos Jobin Airport, named after the famous jazz musician) another chance!

Or maybe not. This review takes a look at what might have changed in the past few years.

Background on the Rio Airport

The Rio Airport is operation by Infraero (which owns a 49% share), the largest airport operator in Brazil. As of 2013, the Rio Airport was ranked 2nd by number of passengers in Brazil, at 17.1 million enplaned passengers per year. Rio Airport is home to two carriers – GOL Airlines and TAM. The airport has 2 terminal that both operate international and domestic flights.

Rio Airport Terminal 2
Rio Airport Terminal 2 courtesy of Wikipedia

Incidentally, two new airport co-operators have recently come aboard with a 51% ownership share – Grupo Odebrecht & Singapore Group – which are responsible for years 2014- to 2039. Most importantly, Singapore & Odebrecht together bought the 25-year concession rights with the idea of adding more upscale shops & restaurants. If it resembles anything of Singapore’s award-winning Changi Airport, then travelers will be in for a treat.

Some of the specific renovations that Infraero embarked on over the last few years were:

  • First phase – renovation of Passenger Terminal 1, costing 314.9 million reals. Completed: February 2011
  • Second phase – renovation of Passenger Terminal 2, costing 284.0 million reals. Completed: May 2012
  • Third phase – construction of further parking, costing 220.0 million reals. Completed: May 2013

Despite these improvements, however, dining and shopping options are still limited. We are hoping this will be the focus of the next two years so that it is a world class airport in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Sadly it is still just not there.

Dining at the Rio Airport

According to guests, there are two decent eateries downstairs in Terminal 1 – Restaurante De Moiselle, and Tropical. They were  both reviewed as “OK” on Chowhound. Other than that, there aren’t a lot of options (only 16 dining options total in the entire airport).

Shopping at the Rio Airport

Some of the best shopping that you’ll find in the Rio Airport is unfortunately the Duty Free. It is available only for deplaning passengers after the baggage area, prior to passing through customs. Prices are competitive, especially for cosmetics, perfumes, and alcohol (which is heavily taxed in Brazil). Note: tourists can bring up to 12 bottles of liquid refreshment totaling $500 inclusive. Stocking up on Black Label is always a safe bet. Besides the Rio Duty Free, there’s always Brookstone.

Airport Lounge at the Rio Airport

There is a small Diners Club Sala VIP club called the “Smiles VIP International Lounge” near Terminal 2, Airside, 2nd floor. It includes internet and basic coffee/soft drinks and apparently good sandwiches but not much else. Although, showers are available  – and its open round the clock. Rate: $50 per person.  There are several ways you can get in for free:
  • Show your Diner’s Club card
  • Show your American Airlines Admiral’s Club membership.
  • If you are part of the GOL Airlines Smiles Gold or Diamond categories, you can also access the Smiles VIP Room complimentary.
  • If you are not part of these Smiles categories, but have a GOL Airlines ticket in Comfort Class you can similarly take advantage of complimentary access.

Rio Airport Hotels

If the lounge isn’t enough for you and you really need to lie down, there are some hotels in Rio Airport – Hotel Pousada Galeo, on Terminal 1 Level 1, and Luxor Hotel, a 4 star hotel located in Terminal 3.

Pros and Cons of the Rio Airport

Rio Airport Pros: Luggage storage for a fee. Use this option if you have a long layover and go see the city. Also, the airport is small so its easy to find your way around.

Rio Airport Cons: According to the Infraero website, WiFi is available in Terminal 1 (1st floor, sector B) and Terminal 2 (2nd floor, mezzanine). However, passengers have reported problems with the WiFi (and that there’s an access fee), problems with the AC, cleanliness issues in the bathrooms, and beggars inside the pre-security portion of the airport. Multiple ATM scams – beware!

OK, so we started out our journey to the Rio Airport with optimism given that all these purported renovations were underway for the World Cup and the Olympics. But we ended sadly disappointed.

We therefore give the Rio Airport a C-. 🙁
Hopefully it improves for the 2016 Summer Olympics!
The moral of this blog is – Skip the Rio Airport and just go to the World Cup, like our tripchi developer Eli!
Eli at the World Cup
Eli at the World Cup

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