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Rio airport gets new look for Olympic Games 2016

With less than three months to go until the start of the Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro’s international airport has almost doubled its passenger capacity, added nearly 100 new shops and restaurants, and rolled out high-technology equipment to speed up boarding and passport control.

On Monday (23 May), the new operators of Galeão, as the airport is colloquially known, opened to the public their latest addition: the South Pier of Terminal 2, one kilometre long and with a total area of 100,000 square metres. The brand-new section has been equipped with 26 boarding bridges, giving Galeão more than any airport in Latin America.

Already the second busiest airport in Brazil and the fourth busiest in Latin America, as a result of the expansion Galeão’s annual capacity has risen from 17 million passengers per year to 30 million.

To prepare for the increase in passenger numbers, the airport has installed new X-ray scanners, lifts and moving walkways in Terminal 2. It has added 68 check-in desks, expanded its car park capacity and is modernising its electricity and signage network.

Shiny and new: the South Pier has all the mod cons of the 21st century (Photo: Rio Galeão/Thiago Saramago)

The consortium that took over operations after the government auctioned the right to run the airport at the end of 2013 includes Changi Airports International, the operator of Singapore Changi Airport, which in March was voted the world’s best airport for the fourth consecutive year.

In total, the Rio Galeão consortium has already invested around 2 billion reais (US$558 million) in improvements. By the end of its contract in 2039, it expects to invest a further 3.2 billion reais and increase capacity to more than 60 million passengers per year.

The airport is officially named Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport in honour of bossa nova legend Tom Jobim, who died in 1994. It is situated on an island linked by road and a bus rapid transit line to the mainland and is around 20km from the centre of Rio.

Passenger experience

The Brazilian government’s secretariat for civil aviation expects Galeão to receive around 2.5 million visitors during the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Whereas on an average day, the airport handles around 40,000 passengers, on the day after the closing ceremony the airport expects that number to more than double to 90,000.

Potential travellers to the Games will be glad to know that as well as increasing capacity, the airport is investing in improving the customer experience – expanding the range of retail and leisure options, and rolling out digital services to make their stay more pleasant.

With the opening of the South Pier, the duty free shopping area has doubled in size, with new shops, restaurants, banks and bureaux de change coming to Galeão. By August, 100 new stores and restaurants will have been added to the airport since the new operators took over management. Before the start of the Olympic Games, four VIP lounges will be opened.

On the technology side, the airport launched a new app on Monday which will help people at Galeão find their way around and keep track of their flights.

The South Pier boasts modern and stylish bathrooms (Photo: Rio Galeão/Thiago Saramago)

Other improvements, such as bar-coded boarding passes and ‘eGates’ for customs and border control, will be in place by August and will help speed up passenger boarding and processing. Galeão has also invested in a new integrated security system with more than 1,000 cameras.

Passengers leaving on night flights to Miami, Zurich, Frankfurt and New York on Monday (23 May) were the first to benefit from the improvements at Galeão. Arrivals at the new South Pier will start on Tuesday.

To make sure that visitors have a positive first impression of the Olympic city, the airport also opened on Monday a welcome centre in Terminal 2, where multi-lingual staff will provide guests with tourist information about Rio and the surrounding area.

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