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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Congress Aims to Keep Bans on Dealing with Cuban Military

Proposed legislation would ban Americans from engaging in any financial transactions with the Cuban military or the Cuban Ministry of the Interior
More

Video Rapprochement Opens New, Uncertain Chapter in US-Cuba Relations

Change is result of months of secret negotiations that culminated in December with decision to resume ties, but critics say nothing has changed in Cuba’s human rights record
More

Pirates and Hold-ups: Crime Strikes Venezuela's Oil Industry

National crime pandemic is a growing headache for the oil industry, which accounts for nearly all of the country's export revenues
More

US Defense Secretary: 'No Anticipation' of Giving Up Base in Cuba

Havana says normalization of relations will require surrendering base US has leased since 1903
More

Mexico Supreme Court Judge Urges States to Legalize Gay Marriage

Court ruled in decision published on June 19 that laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman were unconstitutional
More

Global Chatter Greets US-Cuba Announcement

Reactions range from move ‘incentivizing a police state’ and ‘caving to Castro’ on the one hand, to ‘necessary step’ and ‘new era of possibility’ on the other
More