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By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – To ensure that the half a million visitors about to land in Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games have a positive first impression of the Cidade Maravilhosa, Rio’s Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport, known simply as Galeão, has recently undergone a R$2 billion infrastructure transformation to improve the visitor experience.

Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro
The fourth busiest airport in South America, Rio’s Galeão handles around 40,000 passengers daily, but during the Olympics, that number is expected to double to over 90,000, photo by Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil.

As recently as this past February, Galeão was ranked as one of Brazil’s worst airports according to a survey by the Department of Civil Aviation. The fourth busiest airport in South America, on an average day, Galeão handles around 40,000 passengers. During the Olympics, that number is expected to balloon to well over 90,000 on some days.

The airport has two terminals with a majority of international flights arriving in Terminal 2. To prepare for the record-breaking Olympic onslaught, a new one kilometer long, 100,000-square-meter section of Terminal 2 has been constructed. The new section is equipped with 26 additional boarding bridges, giving Galeão the most of any airport in South America, to aid the flow of passengers onto and off of airplanes.

Galeão has also installed new X-ray scanners, elevators, moving walkways, 68 new check-in desks and expanded parking facilities. Sure to please many travelers, the airport has doubled and modernized Terminal 2’s duty-free shopping area with an additional eight thousand square meters and one hundred new stores and restaurants. For business travelers, Galeão has also devoted six thousand square meters to lounges and executive areas.

Importantly, with the latest improvements, three thousand bluetooth beacons and five hundred wi-fi hotspots were installed throughout the airport. The new wired infrastructure paved the way for Galeão to be the first airport in South America to offer its own indoor navigation app, called RIOgaleão, which it unveiled in June.

Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro
Galeão’s new Terminal 2 includes infrastructure and technology improvements to help Olympic visitors survive the record-breaking crowds, photo by Thiago Saramago/Rio Galeão.

Along with the usual maps and routes to help to navigate the airport, the RIOgaleão app, available in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, features real-time flight and arrival monitoring, and information on airport shops, restaurants and public transportation to surrounding areas. Users can also pay for parking by scanning the parking ticket’s bar code with the device’s camera and entering credit card data. In addition, the app offers a live support chat as well as self-service kiosks located in both terminals.

New technology has also been enlisted to speed up the immigration process. Electronic eGates have been installed that automate the passport clearance process. This combines with the visa exemption for the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan, which began on June 1st lasting until September 18th. Travelers from these countries simply need a passport valid for at least the past six months.

Tourists from European Union member states, Russia, Argentina, South Africa and the Republic of Korea, as well as many other countries, do not need a visa to enter Brazil.

Finally, to ensure visitors will not feel left out in the dark once they’ve passed immigration, collected their bags, and gone through customs, a new Welcome Center was also installed in Terminal 2, staffed with multi-lingual guides from Riotur (Rio de Janeiro City Tourism Board) and Setur (Rio State Tourism Board) to provide city and transportation information.

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Hailing from the rough and tumble streets of Queens, New York, Nelson Belen is an attorney and journalist who now calls Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, home. He writes real estate, sports and travel for us, as well as local politics and business news.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Having just flown to and returned from the USA, using Terminal 2, my own rating of the “improvements” is that they are really no such thing. The kilometer-long walk to get to your departure gate is through a winding maze of duty-free shops and there are no automated walkways. While this may please many travelers, I’m not one of those. After landing, the kilometer-long walk to immigration does have a few walkways but not nearly enough. And the section for Brazilians does not also indicate that permanent residents should go there, as it used to–but indeed, that’s where you should go. I saw no electronic egates there, they checked my passport just as in the past.
    The one decided improvement is that upon arrival, the duty-free store is located after you get your bags and go through customs clearance. The duty-free staff collect your regular luggage carts before you enter and then bring them to you after you’ve made your purchases.

  2. No elevators inside terminal 2, ridiculously restricted access to the parking garage if you have a luggage cart, no lounges open at all (as of 18th July), incorrect notifications for departure terminal, etc etc.

    Seems like the same old Galeao to me.

  3. I just returned from Terminal 2 as well. There is indeed new WiFi galore. I agree there could be more motorized walkways, but it didn’t seem to be any less than other airports with some physical walking. After breezing through customs, I got my bags and had no choice but to walk through a maze of new duty free shops. It kinda reminded me of, “Welcome to Ikea”. If you’ve ever been to Ikea, you’re forced to (cleverly) walk through every home good department in order to recharge the exit.
    A note of warning. Upon returning to the States via Terminal 2, make sure you stock up on snacks or food before you get to your kilometer away departure gate. There are no vendors down there and no motorized walkways to get back to a snack shop!

  4. I fly to the States once a month and agree wholeheartedly with Michael.
    The airport, improved in so many other ways, suffer from the over-commercialization found at so many privately operated airports.
    US airports, by and large, have the advantage of great selections of restaurants and shops while at the same time being operated by a public authority.
    I think Rio’s problem before was being run by a federal agency and not a local one (the model for almost all US airports).

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