News / Americas

    Brazil Falling Short in Rush to Overhaul World Cup Airports

    An aerial view of the International Airport of Recife, northeastern Brazil, April 6, 2014. Recife is one of the host cities for the 2014 World Cup.
    An aerial view of the International Airport of Recife, northeastern Brazil, April 6, 2014. Recife is one of the host cities for the 2014 World Cup.
    Reuters
    With less than 10 weeks until the start of the World Cup, work on crucial new airport terminals has fallen behind in most of the dozen Brazilian host cities, heightening the risk of overcrowding and confusion during the tournament.

    A temporary canvas terminal will be used instead of a planned airport expansion to receive fans in Fortaleza, which will host six matches including Brazil's game against Mexico and a quarter-final.

    During President Dilma Rousseff's visit to an airport in Belo Horizonte,  the site of a semi-final, officials admitted on Monday that construction would not be completed in time.

    Back-up plans are also being prepared in other cities.

    "Other airports have not said anything yet, but they will probably have to come up with contingencies," said Carlos Ozores, a principal at aviation consultancy ICF International  who has consulted for Brazilian airlines and airport operators.

    Concern over Brazil's airports is especially acute since they represent some of the tournament's most lasting investments. A host of other transportation projects have been scrapped or postponed, adding to criticism that the World Cup will leave few long-term benefits for ordinary Brazilians.

    Soccer legend Pele said on Monday he worried that the state of Brazil's airports could ruin the opportunity presented by the tournament, adding that he was saddened to see rushed efforts when his country had years to prepare.

    Quick fixes and last-minute deliveries are a recipe for chaos in the complex aviation industry, analysts say. Bungled openings of terminals from London to Denver took months to straighten out.

    The stakes will be high in Brazil as more than 600,000 visitors arrive for the World Cup starting in June, one of the biggest sudden influxes the country has ever seen.

    "People coming to Brazil are going to be shocked, especially Americans, by the how bad the airports are," said Paul Irvine, who runs travel agency Dehouche in Rio de Janeiro.

    "There won't be any catastrophic issues ... but they will be chaotic and ugly as heck," he said.

    Any air travel chaos could be especially embarrassing for Rousseff, who made a bold political bet by privatizing a handful of key airports to ready them for the tournament, accelerating work that had languished under state control. The move broke with the ideology of her leftist Workers' Party.

    If those airports fail to deliver the smooth service that helped to justify the privatizations, the issue could quickly become an election campaign issue as Rousseff seeks a second term in October. The airport concessions are a closely watched first step in her more than $100 billion plan to draw private investment to public infrastructure projects.

    Construction delays at publicly administered airports have been far more dramatic. At the start of last month, airport overhauls in seven World Cup host cities were only half finished or worse, according to Infraero, the government agency that oversees airport operations.

    Still, the privately run projects are drawing scrutiny. Civil aviation authority ANAC has redoubled its inspections of three privatized airports since learning at the start of this year that work was behind proposed timelines.

    Adjusting Expectations

    At the international airport serving the capital Brasilia, the racket of jackhammers rings through an open concourse, where passengers riding up an escalator can see a six-foot-wide hole in the floor behind a boarded-off area.

    One new terminal is set to open in weeks and the private operator promises another by May, although municipal authorities are downplaying that possibility.

    At Guarulhos Airport outside of Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, the glistening facade of the new Terminal 3 hides an interior still missing several walls, ceilings and basic operating systems.

    "Guarulhos is where we expect to get the most blowback," said one government official briefed on the airport's progress, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue.

    The automated baggage check and immigrations systems originally promised will not be ready for the World Cup. The new international terminal is set to open at a fraction of its eventual capacity, handling just one in four foreign flights - less than 10 percent of overall traffic at the airport.

    "At Terminal 3 in Guarulhos, they have already shifted from more airlines to fewer for the World Cup, and one could imagine further announcements ahead," said Ozores. "There's clearly a correction going on, an adjustment of expectations."

    By most accounts, construction at the privatized airports has moved at a relentless pace, with as many as 8,000 workers on shifts around the clock at each site. Operators say they will deliver new terminals by the deadlines they promised.

    But the timelines for the airports were tight from the start. After winning auctions in February 2012, paperwork and regulations held up construction until the second half of the year, leaving airports with as little as a year and a half for their overhauls.

    Viracopos, another privatized airport outside of Sao Paulo where several national teams will be chartering flights, was 82 percent finished with its promised expansion in January, about three months before its deadline. Its operator declined a request to visit the site.

    By contrast, several World Cup stadiums were finished late, but organizers have now held test matches in all except one of 12 scheduled to host games: Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians, where the deaths of three construction workers have slowed work amid investigations.

    Brazil's need for new airport terminals is unmistakable, with three in four airports stretched beyond intended capacity since 2010 after air traffic more than doubled in a decade, according to Infraero.

    However, the scramble to finish construction on the eve of the World Cup has created the potential for snags in a system with little margin for error.

    The Brazilian Air Force has further complicated things by declaring no-fly zones over stadiums during matches for security reasons, disrupting flights in several cities for as much as five hours at a time.

    Brazilian airlines have also been cutting costs and slashing payrolls after two years of heavy losses, and travel headaches are common in the country even without the crush of a major sporting event. During a recent visit to the Brasilia airport, for example, one airline's computer system crashed for hours, sending queues snaking out the door and along the curb.

    "It will be chaotic and strange situation for most travelers," said travel agent Irvine of Dehouche. "But they will muddle through."

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    After Plumbing, Electrical Problems, Australian Athletes Move into Rio Olympic Village

    Head of Australian Olympic delegation praises repair progress adding workers are 'absolutely really good'

    Missing ex-Guantanamo Detainee Reappears in Venezuela

    He is one of six former Guantanamo prisoners who were resettled in Uruguay after being released by U.S. authorities in 2014; he has repeatedly expressed his unhappiness at his life in Uruguay

    Venezuela Critics Press for Progress on Presidential Recall

    Socialist government digging in its heels to stop a presidential recall vote as it fights to hold onto power amid an economic collapse

    Brazil Prosecutor Freezes $11.7M of Facebook Funds Due to WhatsApp Case

    Facebook failed to comply with court order to supply data on users of company's messaging service who are under criminal investigation

    No Amnesty for War Rapists: Colombia Peace Talks Turn to Women's Rights

    Government, FARC rebels have pledged to improve access to land for women and ensure perpetrators of sexual violence will not be eligible for amnesty as part of ongoing peace talks

    UN Asks Brazil Authorities to Investigate Journalist's Death

    UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova condemns the killing of Joao Miranda do Carmo, the third reporter to die in Brazil this year