Expecting Half-a-Million Visitors
Eyes around the world will be focused on Rio de Janeiro this month as the Brazilian city hosts the 2016 Summer Olympic games beginning today, August 5. With an estimated half-a-million visitors expected to land for the world-wide mega sporting event, the city’s only international airport known as Galeao has recently undergone a $2 billion renovation, transforming its infrastructure to handle the influx of flights, passenger traffic and to improve the visitor experience.
With the 2014 World Cup behind them, airport management realized there would be a greater aviation challenge in preparing for the 2016 Olympic games with the significant increase in commercial and charter flights as well as receiving more heads of state. Galeao airport is the fourth busiest airport in South America handling over 14.5 million passengers annually (or about 40,000 passengers on an average day). With that number expected to reach over 90,000 on some days throughout the games, management has instituted specific operating plans to ensure the best possible experience for both airport personnel and worldwide visitors.
What is Al Graser’s take?
Al Graser, an adjunct professor who teaches airport and operations management at Vaughn College, shared his insight on the renovations, advancements and improvements at Galeao. With 40 years of experience at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and his stellar reputation as general manager at New York’s La Guardia and John F. Kennedy (JFK) international airports, Graser is well versed in all aspects of aviation operations.
Brazil put forth a major effort to prepare for the 2016 Olympic games,” said Graser. “It appears this type of investment will ensure the security, service and operations for all users of the airport during the Olympic games and into the future.
The vast renovations to Galeao have overturned the airport’s unfavorable ranking as one of the country’s worst airports. It has two terminals, with Terminal 2 receiving the majority of international flights. Terminal 2 is home to a new section that spans the length of almost 10 football fields and is equipped with 26 additional boarding bridges to ease the flow of passengers boarding and deplaning the aircraft. To make the experience even more enjoyable for visitors, Galeao doubled and modernized the duty-free shopping area in Terminal 2 with an additional 86,000 square feet, including 100 new shops and restaurants, while business travelers now have over 64,000 square feet of their own exclusive space devoted to lounges and executive areas. The airport also expanded their parking facilities and installed new X-ray scanners, elevators, moving walkways and 68 new check-in desks to facilitate a more seamless travel experience.
They’ve Got an App for That
To keep up with technology and meet passenger demand, 3,000 Bluetooth beacons and 500 Wi-Fi hot spots were installed throughout the airport. To make the Rio experience even more exciting and help facilitate a more enjoyable travel experience, Galeao is now the first airport in South America to offer its own indoor navigation app, called RIOgaleao. The app is available in English, Portuguese and Spanish and features real-time flight and arrival information to lessen the potential overcrowding around airport monitors. Users will not only enjoy the convenience of maps and routes to navigate the massive airport, but they can also find information on airport shops, restaurants and public transportation in the surrounding areas. Other useful features on the app include paying for parking and live chat support.
Automated Passport Process
With sporting enthusiasts traveling to Rio from all corners of the world, Galeao anticipated the immigration crunch and planned ahead by installing electronic eGates to automate the passport process. They even built a new Welcome Center in Terminal 2 with a friendly multi-lingual staff to provide visitors with city and transportation information.
More Room for Aircraft Parking
On the ground, the airport has increased its number of physical aircraft parking spaces. Galeao now has 97 certified, full-time parking spaces (24 of which are E-class), and has increased its capacity to receive business jets. With hundreds of heads of state expected to attend the games, the Galeao Air Base will receive head-of-state flights and will have the ability to handle three airplanes every 20 minutes. Security measures are in place at Galeao that allow business jets to land only between the hours of 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Rio’s domestic airport, Santos Dumont (which is located in the heart of downtown), will be operating 24 hours a day during the Olympic games allowing for an additional 180 business aviation flights during the hours between midnight and 6 a.m.
Increased Security for Visitors
Rio de Janeiro is currently on high-alert with a full-scale mobilization of military units which began late last month ahead of the Olympic games. Soldiers have been deployed to Galeao, the famous Copacabana Beach and throughout the city. The Brazilian government said it plans to mobilize more than 85,000 personnel including approximately 22,000 soldiers.