By Mira Olson, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – In light of the rapidly approaching 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, airlines are already preparing for the expected increase in travel to Rio de Janeiro. In upcoming months, various airlines will be launching several new direct connections between Galeão, Rio’s international airport, and popular destinations in Europe, the United States and South America.
An increase in international flights to and from Rio will help to reduce congestion at São Paulo’s international airport, Guarulhos, the country’s principle entryway via air travel. Most international travelers are currently forced to connect through São Paulo.
On August 10th, the Brazilian airline TAM will begin offering direct service to London, with three flights weekly. Until now, all flights to London were out of São Paulo.
Additionally, TAM will now be offering five flights per week from Rio to Frankfurt. This is highly significant for passengers traveling to and from Germany, as previously Lufthansa was the only carrier to offer connecting service from Brazil to Frankfurt, and only from São Paulo.
The airline has reported that the demand for direct flights to Rio is such that flights in the first week of service are already 97 percent filled. TAM vice-president Paulo Castello Branco told O Globo that the decision to offer these flights was based on the fact that Rio has become more commercially important because of the upcoming events, in addition to São Paulo’s ever-more-congested status.
American Airlines is awaiting confirmation to begin offering three direct flights per week between Rio and Dallas. If approved, the route will be implemented on November 18th. On the same day, the airline will begin offering daily service between Rio and New York.
United Airlines will be offering additional flights from Washington-Dulles to Galeão from December 15th, 2010 to January 10th, 2010 to account for increased travel during Brazil’s high tourist season.
In terms of South America, TACA has already begun offering two flights weekly from Lima.
More airlines are expected to initiate direct international connections with Rio over the next couple years as the city’s infrastructure improves. As required by the Olympic committee as one of the various requirements Rio must meet before the 2016 deadline, Galeão is already undergoing major renovations.
Renovations include a complete remodeling of Terminal 1, and construction of Terminal 2 will finally be completed. Once construction has concluded, the airport’s operational capacity will rise from its current level of eighteen million passengers per year to 26 million passengers per year.
New flight routes have not only been introduced in Rio, however. With Brazil’s growing status as a global leader, airlines around the world are adding connections throughout the country.
The newly created Safari Airlines from Guinea-Bissau is planning to offer two weekly flights between Bissau and Fortaleza beginning in September, with the goal of increasing to four or five flights per week, based on demand.
Delta Air Lines is expected to increase its service to Brazil as of October 21st, although through São Paulo. Pending approval from Brazilian authorities, the airline will offer a new São Paulo-Detroit route five times a week.