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.
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.
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.