By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Already holding the title of the Southern Hemisphere’s most popular tourist spot with around 2.8 million visitors each year, the appeal of Rio de Janeiro for holidaymakers has been increasing along with its global prestige as host of the 2016 Olympics, and the key role it will play in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The number of visitors to the city has been growing at a rate of 7.8 percent each year, and the Ministério do Turismo (Ministry of Tourism) foresees that number increasing by fifteen percent from 2015 to 2016 as a result of the Olympics.
In a bid to keep up with the increase in demand, the world’s major airlines have been adding new flights, making it now possible to reach Rio de Janeiro from most places without having to do multiple transfers.
With Rio’s Galeão International Airport increasingly becoming a direct destination and a new hub for Brazil following the lead of São Paulo’s Guarulhos International, the airports are currently forced to handle flights and passengers well above their capacity.
This has led to airlines having to offer direct flights to other major destinations in Brazil such as Salvador, Recife, Manaus, Brasília, and Fortaleza to reduce the burden on São Paulo and Rio.
In another attempt to increase direct flights from the United States to Brazil, Delta Air Lines launched the first non-stop flight from Detroit to São Paulo recently, the first flight from Detroit to the Southern Hemisphere. The flight will operate twice weekly before switching to five times a week on December 15th in order to meet the demand for the peak tourist season.
The new additions come in the wake of a meeting between the Ambassador of Brazil and Delta’s CEO Richard Anderson, at which the ambassador asked for more flights in order to accommodate the increased demand that the world’s two largest sporting events will bring to Brazil. Delta, the world’s largest airline, has now obtained the approval of the Department of Transportation to further increase flights between the U.S. and Brazil.
American Airlines also has the department’s approval to operate eleven flights weekly to Brazil starting in November, with its main routes being from New York to Rio de Janeiro, and from Miami to Brasília.
Continental Airlines, meanwhile, has signed a code share deal with Brazil’s TAM Linhas Aereas (TAM Airlines), in an attempt to expand its destinations without adding additional flights.
TAM, Brazil’s largest airline, has also declared that it will be launching direct flights between Miami and two Brazilian cities, Brasília and Belo Horizonte, from December. The airline has also recently started direct flights from Rio de Janeiro to London and Frankfurt.
Commercial and Planning Vice President of TAM Paulo Castello Branco explained their reasoning and strategy, saying; “The high and increasing passenger demand has made us restart the operation of international long haul flights in these two important business centers of the country. Furthermore, we are the only company to serve the market in Brasilia with direct flights to Miami.”
Even with these new flights being offered, industry professionals recommend booking travel early given the enormous popularity of Rio as a holiday destination, and not rely on last-minute discounts and offers.