By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – As hundreds of thousands of Brazilians get ready to head out to celebrate Carnival, this year held from February 14th to 18th, the country’s busiest airports and bus stations have set up special operations to ensure easy transit for travelers.
At the seven airports which are likely to receive the most number of passengers, Brazil’s Civil Aviation Agency (SAC) implemented Operação Folia Feliz (loosely translated as Operation Happy Party), which calls for a greater number of airport personnel to help travelers.
Brazil’s major airlines have also announced they are making available 1,200 extra flights to accommodate Carnival-goers. Among the airports receiving extra personnel are Rio de Janeiro’s International and Santos Dumont airport, São Paulo’s Guarulhos and Congonhas, as well the main airports in Recife and Salvador. The operation started on Thursday, February 12th and will go on until Monday, February 23rd.
The SAC estimates that nearly 5.3 million passengers will pass through the terminals during the twelve days, fourteen percent more than in the 2014 Carnival period.
“[Increased travel] is not surprising because air travel is growing more than the average of the other sectors in the industry,” said Aviation Secretary, Eliseu Padilha, during the press conference to announce the extra measures.
Bus terminals are also getting ready for the extra flux of travelers. According to Socicam, administrator of São Paulo’s Tietê, Barra Funda and Jabaquara bus terminals, over 680,000 people will pass through these three terminals during this year’s Carnival period, with the greatest flux of people leaving the city on Friday (February 13th). The most popular destinations are the coastal and interior regions of São Paulo state, the interior of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro.
In Rio de Janeiro, the administrators for the Novo Rio Bus Terminal estimate that nearly 388,000 passengers will pass through the terminal to popular destinations such as Buzios, Cabo Frio, and the interior of Minas Gerais state. The terminal is making available 3,700 buses to the most popular Carnival destinations, with a total of 12,000 buses passing through the terminal from February 13th to 18th.
As for highways, Brazil’s Federal Highway Police will increase its police presence in state and federal highways in both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo states.
According to São Paulo state officials nearly 1.4 million vehicles are expected to leave São Paulo city during this period, with the greatest number of vehicles leaving on Friday night (February 13th) and Saturday morning (February 14th) and returning on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning (February 17th and 18th). Around 3,800 officers will be at hand to make sure party-goers do not drink and drive.
In Rio de Janeiro officials estimate that more than one million vehicles will enter or leave through the city’s main highways, a thirty percent increase from other holiday periods. According to officials, Carnival is the holiday period when the greatest numbers of highway accidents are reported.
For those who remain in Rio de Janeiro, security will also be reinforced. According to city officials 1,800 officers will be at hand at the Sambódromo, where Rio’s major samba schools will take part in the two-day parade. Officers will be stationed both on the bleachers and the closed boxes. Military police will also be monitoring the dozens of samba blocos (street party groups) scheduled to parade throughout the city during the four-day celebration.