Saturday, 19 April 2014

Is GRU the worst airport?

Earlier this year this webpage listed the 10 worst airports surprise, surprise Brazil wins! For a relativey international airport, yes its bad. I've grown up in Hong Kong and lived in Singapore - two of what I would consider, the best airports (and airlines) in the world. JFK and Newark definitely deserve their places on that list too but I question GRU being no.1 on their list. 

On Thursday afternoon I flew from GRU Terminal 1 with my 2 girls (4 year old + 2 year old), + 2 pieces of luggage and a buggy. I gave myself some buffer time to get to the airport since it was the start of the Easter holiday weekend. * We got to the airport in 50 minutes, we unloaded right outside the entrance and walked 50 steps to the BA counter (100 mini steps for sleepy little girls). From there, one of the BA staff asked me what flight I was travelling on and took my baggage trolley from me and pushed me through to the Prioridade line. I was checked in in 10 minutes (yes, i know the general queue was probably more of an hour wait but surely everyone appreciated not having to stand in queue alongside some hyperactive toddlers!). 

At the entrance to security I was directed to the front of the queue again, and at immigration I was only held up another 5 minutes as they checked my documentation for Olivia, who is Brazilian born. If your child is Brazilian born they must travel out on their Brazilian passport (we actually once did get out on her UK passport as the Brazilian passport had expired, first one is only valid for 1 year, second one is for 2 years etc), and as I was travelling out on my own with her I needed a document from my husband authorising the travel. You can download the document here and the signatures must be cartorised.** By law it is required for any Brazilian child travelling out of Brazil with one parent but just to be safe I prepare two copies for both children (even if my oldest is not Brazilian), and both me and my husband sign it to give me approval to travel with them. As I've learnt over time here in Brazil, it does not hurt to be overly-prepared when it comes to official documentation : )

I was surprised as there are some new cafés and little restaurants in GRU that didn't exist before. It's slowly getting better.  Check out this new pizza place - though we didn't try it so I can't tell you if it's any good... 

At the gate (which surprisingly did not change, but we were late to board and they hadn't bothered to advise anyone), the ground staff came up to tell us personally that we could board first with the children. 

Then we landed 11 hours later in Heathrow Terminal 5. As the girls have British passports we could take that immigration queue instead which was pretty fast (thankfully as Sophie had a poo emergency) but there is definitely no priority queue. I had one trolley with our luggage; no option here to ask or even pay someone to help you so I had the 4 year old push the buggy with the 2 year old. It then took us 40 bl**dy minutes to transfer to get our car rental and then another hour to haggle as they had no more cars left in our category, to only pay more money to get a smaller car. Husband insists it's much nicer but it can't fit our 256kg allowance that we will return to Brazil with... I've just realised that he's done this to limit my shopping... 

*Check out the traffic a friend sat in for 4.5 hours and travelled just over 80km this weekend!
**To register your signature at your local cartorio check out an old post here


  1. Wait...what's wrong with JFK and EWR? I've flown out of each several times and had no problems.

  2. I think GRU has improved since the first time I landed there in March of last year. We've been through it three or four times since then and found that It's still chaotic and confusing, and not very user friendly, but seems to be getting better.

    We ate at that pizza place last time (in February). It was pretty gross (greasy and flavorless and reminded me of my US elementary school cafeteria food), so don't worry. You didn't miss anything special.

  3. @Adam - I've obviously been very unlucky at JFK and EWR, always been about a 2 hour check-in process and flying back in we've always had a long wait back in immigration. Though maybe the experience would be similar at GRU if we didn't have children and prioridade!

    @Peg - will remember NOT to try the pizza place : )

  4. Hi! Great blog! My name is Thomas and I'm a chinese-taiwanese-brazilian born and raised in São Paulo guy but living in Curitiba. Miss the city a lot!

    Brazilian airports in general are very outdated! Thankfully one of the few good things about the upcoming World Cup and Olympics are the airports concessions. You can see a clear difference in the works that are being done in those concessioned airports and the one still managed by Infraero! GRU is going to open its new Terminal 3 in may 11 2014 and the old terminals 1 and 2 will receive a facelift later this year. I believe these changes will increase a lot the international and domestic passengers experience in the airport and so we don't have to be ashamed of our biggest airport no more! lol