Passengers in the United States holding Varig tickets have been abandoned by that bankrupt airline company. People getting to Varig’s ticket counter in New York’s international JFK airport were getting this message, yesterday, June 21: "If you wish to go back to Brazil buy a ticket in another airline."
Despite the cancellation of most of its flights to the US and the rest of the world, Varig keeps selling tickets by phone and on its Internet site without warning passengers they will probably not be able to fly.
Some people in the US with Varig tickets in hand are trying to go to Brazil since Sunday without success. Daily Folha de S. Paulo tells many stories of despair including the one told by Brazilian Marília Costa Mattos, who had a nervous breakdown at JFK, crying and screaming:
"I don’t have a place to go. I’m in panic, my flight was supposed to leave yesterday morning. My God, help me. I never thought I would have such a nightmare."
Passengers complain that Varig is not paying hotel, transportation or food to those who wait to go to Brazil or have to go back to Manhattan.
For some the last hope was Brazilian airline TAM. They had a waiting list to attend a few, but only those with endorsable tickets, which were in the minority. The only sure way to fly was to pay US$ 900 for a new ticket with other companies serving Brazil.
In a note released yesterday afternoon the directors of Varig reported that the company will continue to operate the following regularly scheduled flights.
Weekly flights to Aruba and Copenhagen. Daily flights to Miami, Frankfurt, London, Buenos Aires, Lima, Santa Cruz de La Sierra (in Bolivia); Santiago and Caracas.
And domestic flights to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo (including shuttle flights) Salvador; Recife; Fortaleza; Belém; Manaus, Curitiba; Porto Alegre, Florianópolis; Macapá, Brasília, Foz do Iguaçu and Fernando de Noronha will operate normally.
The Varig Group Workers (Trabalhadores do Grupo Varig) (TGV), represented by the investment group, NV Participações, which made the only bid at the June 8 Varig auction now admits it may be unable to make a mandatory deposit this Friday.
The bidders have to deposit US$ 75 million in order to close the deal (they offered slightly over 1 billion reais (around US$ 500 million) for Varig.
"We are not 100% certain that we will have the money on Friday," declared Márcio Marsillac, a coordinator at TGV. According to Marsillac, the NV Participações bid was made in the name of a consortium of investors whose identities are secret.
"They will reveal themselves when the time is right," said Marsillac.
Meanwhile, Ricardo Largman, the TGV spokesperson, says negotiations continue with the investors in order to close the deal. He says the talks are complicated because they involve international creditors and investors and a difficult financial restructuring plan.