Christmas Brings Chaos Back to Brazilian Airports

On the eve of Christmas, Brazil’s main airports have once again become a battleground of discontent, tumult, long lines, hours of delay and, at times, total chaos.

In Rio’s Tom Jobim International Airport the military police brought  armed agents after people threatened to break the airport’s installations. In Brasí­lia a group of disgruntled passengers invaded the runway.

At 5:30 am, today, the Rio Federal Police arrested Roberto Maurí­cio Ferreira Ribeiro, a surgeon, charging him with stirring up trouble. He was supposed to fly to Maceió in the state of Alagoas by TAM, but the air company was only allowing people going to Recife, capital of Pernambuco, to board.

The Maceió stop-over cancellation generated protests. TAM informed that some enraged passengers broke a computer and the counter on Terminal 2.

In São Paulo, both the international airport in Guarulhos and Congonhas were having delays averaging 5 hours. Nothing compared to Tom Jobim’s, however. where a flight to Miami was more than 12 hours late.

According to the ANAC (National Agency of Civil Aviation), Brazil’s airport authority, 35% of the flights today are being delayed at least one hour. The problems, they say, started Wednesday afternoon, December 20.

The Brazilian Air Force, which is in charge of air flight control in the country, tells that trouble started due to a heavy rain in the southeast region of the country, where are São Paulo and Rio are located.

The problem got worse, said the Air Force, when TAM, Brazil’s largest airline, suffered a failure in its computers preventing passengers from checking in. The company, however, denied having any computer glitch.

Cancellations and delays made some passengers very aggressive. A woman in Congonhas attacked a TAM employee while waiting for a delayed flight. About 300 people ended up sleeping on the chairs and floor of the airport’s departure hall.

At the Juscelino Kubitschek’s International Airport, in Brasí­lia, flights were being delayed up to four hours this morning. The situation became tense when a group of disgruntled passengers invaded the airport’s runway and despite the heavy rain sat down on the air strip until they were forcefully removed by the airport’s security.

People waiting for hours in Congonhas were more restrained. About 100 of them signed a petition addressed to the Justice. Brasil Filho, who should have embarked at 8:30 pm, yesterday, but was still waiting for his plane at 8 in the morning today told reporters about his frustration "Indignation is widespread. We are without water, without sleeping, without information. We have people who are 75 years old, and 8-year-old children."

ANAC released a note apologizing for the delays. The agency informed that the problem this time wasn’t the fault of flight controllers but the airlines. TAM confirmed that their domestic flights were 2.5 hours late in average and that they had cancelled 26 flights.


  • Show Comments (14)

  • ch.c.

    to Bo……
    ….this was my point !!!!
    When passengers are at risk, you cancel or delay flights ! Normal… developed nations !

    But not so….in Brazil ! They effectively put tens and tens of millions of air passengers at risk…for years…..due to their shortage, overworked, inept ATCs, not even mentionning their many blindspots ….that have been hidden and still refuted by the Pampers wearing
    Minister Pires !!

    Here are parts of recent articles :
    – “SAO PAULO, Dec. 12 Two foreign airlines are warning their pilots about the dangers of flying in Brazilian airspace following the deadliest accident on record in the country.”
    – BBC News, Dec. 22, The problems started in October when air traffic staff began a work-to-rule protest following the deaths of 154 people in Brazil’s worst plane crash.
    Air traffic controllers say they are overworked, underpaid and understaffed, putting safety at risk.
    Authorities are still investigating whether controllers had a role in the 29 September disaster.”

    Quite shameful that that these “Authorities” found out in 1 day that the US pilots were responsible, and finally charged them, while they did not find yet what everyone else know……!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Brazil is definitively a Banana Republic….with totally incompetent and corrupted “Authorities” or better said…..criminal gangs and crooks !!!!

  • bo

    [quote]As to the idiot who put all the details of the cancelled or delayed flights in Denver, why dont you put the same details from the various Brazilians airports ????????[/quote]

    At least Denver and London have legitimate excuses!!!

  • ch.c.

    Bad weather has nothing to do with……
    ….voluntary sabotages through disguised recent strikes from the Brazilian ATCs, deciding to put pressures to the Brazilian government….following the recent plane crash !
    At the end this is what is is all about !!!! They dont want to have a few of their colleagues charged and tried for the crash !!!!!!

    And when one airline, TAM, has delayed flights it CANNOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WHOLE MESS THAT IS HAPPENING NOW IN BRAZIL !!!!!!!

    As to the idiot who put all the details of the cancelled or delayed flights in Denver, why dont you put the same details from the various Brazilians airports ????????

  • Will Pickering

    Yo bo
    Bo, you have got it down. However, I would add that Brazilians are often quite passive in situations where people in other countries would complain. Every year about this time the Globo shows the same scenes of flooded streets in SÀƒ£o Paulo, and every year they talk about trash blocking up the drains. The same goes for the mudslides in Baixada Fluminense, where people’s homes collapse and often someone is killed. And every year the Globo shows some poor Brazilians lamenting the tragedy as if it were an act of God – it doesn’t even seem to occur to anyone assign responsiblility to either to the goverment (for not fixing the problem) or to themselves (for not moving). After all, it’s not like this wasn’t predictable.
    I have also noted that when Brazilians are treated badly in stores or offices, they just accept it. For example, a secretary barks, “So-and-so is not here!”, and the poor just soul turns around and leaves. If you ask, “Well, when is he coming back, and when can I see him?”, the person behind the desk is so surprised they almost fall over in a faint.
    Maybe people can only take this for so long before just exploding in anger. As for the driving, who knows?

  • bo

    also noteworthy…
    In my experience in brazil, generally speaking, brazilians are a relaxed, laid back bunch, [b]but[/b], for whatever reason, I’m still trying to figure out why, when you put a brazilian in a car, or in these situations as at the airports, many become very agressive. I can fully understand their reasons for being upset about these delays, but to break computers? Break the counter? Physically attack an employee of a company? On one hand it’s good that people aren’t accepting this situation, I only wish they would be as indignant about their own vereadors, deputadas, and senadors, stealing millions.

    It’s always baffled me how I could sit with a brazilian friend in a restaurant, or a meeting, and he’s as cool as a cucumber, relaxed, laid back, but when we get in his car he drives 100 mph endangering everyone and everything in his path!!

  • bo

    [quote]ANAC released a note apologizing for the delays. The agency informed that the problem this time wasn’t the fault of flight controllers but the airlines. TAM confirmed that their domestic flights were 2.5 hours late in average and that they had cancelled 26 flights.[/quote]

    But [b]why[/b] were the flights cancelled?? I’m quite sure that TAM didn’t just decide to cancel 26 flights on a whim!!

    This situation in the airports in brazil, the accident that happened killing all onboard the Gol airplane in the accident with american pilots, and the reaction of some on this board, [b]are all classic brazilian behaviors and responses!!![/b]

    I’ve began travelling to brazil nearly 15 years ago, and have lived in the northeast of brazil for close to 10. It doesn’t matter what brazilian entity you’re dealing with, generally speaking, a brazilian business, a brazilian worker, or a brazilian citizen, accepting responsibility for problems or errors obviously is perceived as being “taboo”, because the “norm” is to deflect blame and accuse others at any and all costs. It’s truly shameful but this is reality in brazil. I said shortly after I moved here, “Ordem e Progresso” on the brazilian flag needs to be replaced by “NÀƒ£o Foi Eu!!”

    Here we have a situation that has been occurring for numerous [b]MONTHS[/b] now in brazil, flights cancelled and long delays are the norm over the last several months. Wonder why this is? Well, it certainly isn’t the american pilots fault, lol, although they may be figuring out a way to blame them. 😉

    What is even funnier(figure of speech), are the posts about airports being closed or flights delayed in the U.S. or London because of [b]WEATHER[/b]!!!! Well, guess what, the snow will soon go away, as will the fog in london, but in brazil you’ll still have the same incompetent, never accepting blame or responsibility, people and organizations controlling the skies over brazil!!! But that’s the way many are on this board, a problem occurs in brazil, people complain, [b]GRINGOS[/b], which in case you gringos didn’t know, according to many brazilians, [b]you don’t have that right!![/b], so some here just can’t stand it, “oh no, they’re talking bad about my brazil!!” So they scour the internet trying to find a similiar situation occurring in the U.S. or another first world country to make themselves feel better, or justify the incompetence and lunacy in brazil. Not only shows the ignorance of those, but truly a pathetic attempt, once again, at not accepting responsibility.

    As long as these types of attitudes continue, and are accepted, this country will [b]never change[/b]! For the better anyway.

  • Gringo dingo

    Blame game
    Everyone is blaming TAM now….Since day one of these problems no one has admitted or taken responsibility (this is truly a Brazilian quality “nao fui eu”). It has been pass the buck from the git-go, and there is no end in sight. And I must agree with Stephen, this has nothing to do with weather, and everything to do with incompentcy. I cancelled my flight home for the holidays just because of the uncertainties.IÀ‚´m glad I did. IÀ‚´m certain there have been hundreds maybe thousands of cancellations, which makes me think the problems would be much worse in Brazil if everyone where caught off guard at this time of year.Today 40% of the flights are late, if the airports had their normal holiday capacity IÀ‚´m sure that number would be 60-80%.

  • Stephen

    Human Nature
    The weather conditions here in Brazil have little to do with the chaos with the flight delays. Some of you writing about mother nature in N.America and delays at LHR need to get in the loop about the reality here. CH.c sums it up quite is not mother nature that is the problem it is the human nature here with greed, butt covering, and zero empathy for ones fellow citzens. Boa Sorte

  • Maks

    BMI, Heathrow’s second-busiest airline, has cancelled eight flights so far, adding to the 40 scrapped on Thursday.
    I’m in England at the moment, in this super-developed country…where politicians get a fair salary and not 150 times the minimum wage…and flights are being cancelled on account of the weather…I hear the same thing is happening in the United States.

    The truth is that this “bout” of strange weather is being caused by the global changes in climate. I know that many citizens of the United States don’t believe that it exists and it’s even taught in schools that it’s a myth (the ozone layer issue)…but please, your “gas guzzling” truckers etc, are really ruining our world’s ecosystem … it’s a fact that American’s waste more than almost any other nation does in terms of fossil fuels etc… there are alternatives…alcohol in your cars? What’s the problem? Doesn’t give the “purr” like the “gasoline”? We here in Europe waste a lot as well, so we’re not out of the blame zone, but at least we’re concious of what’s happening…and are taking measures to recycle, to protect our earth.

  • guest

    You cannot stop mother nature, part 2
    London-based British Airways said it was focused on getting long-distance fliers on their way first, since short-haul customers had other options available to them, from renting a car to taking a train.
    UAL Corp.À¢€™s United, by far the largest carrier in Denver, said that by Thursday afternoon it had canceled more than 2,000 flights systemwide, primarily because Colorado got smacked by the most powerful snowstorm it has seen in several years.
    À¢€œThis blizzard is unprecedented, and itÀ¢€™s in our second-largest hub,À¢€Â said United spokesman Jeff Kovick. À¢€œIt is completely unprecedented for the airport to be closed for two days.À¢€Â
    Unitedˢ۪s nine daily flights out of London were arriving at their U.S. destinations up to an hour late due to the fog in that city that delayed their departures.
    Even as airline officials and air traffic controllers focused their attention on Denver and London, other parts of the country were dealing with or getting ready for their own dose of untimely bad weather.
    In Chicago, fog prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to reduce the number of flights coming in for all airlines at Oˢ۪Hare International Airport. Kovick said he anticipated delays of more than an hour for United flights at Oˢ۪Hare. Denverˢ۪s problems added to the misery at Oˢ۪Hare and by Thursday afternoon, more than 100 flights had been canceled.
    And in Minneapolis weather forecasters were predicting that rain could turn to ice, setting up potential travel delays on Friday.

  • guest

    You cannot stop mother nature
    Two of the worldˢ۪s busiest airports, in London and Denver, were socked with bad weather on Thursday, propelling a ripple that spread to airports around the world and stranded thousands of holiday travelers during the pre-Christmas travel crunch.
    As flight after flight was canceled, the situation grew into a logistical horror for fliers, whose vacations were disrupted if not spoiled, and for airlines, who may lose much-needed revenue.
    Industry officials said it could take two days to untangle the knot, which is tightest in Denver, where more than two feet of snow kept the airport closed for a second day. Home to one of United Airlines biggest hub operations, itˢ۪s not expected to reopen until midday Friday. In London, the weekend forecast is for more fog Рand more travel delays.
    Jodie and Andy Hartfield of Colorado Springs, Colo., spent a sleepless night at the Denver airport with their three young children. Luckily they scrounged a cot and some blankets from a family that left the airport to stay in a hotel. The Hartfields decided to stick around until Christmas Eve in hopes of catching a flight to Seattle.
    À¢€œWe canÀ¢€™t go home, the highwayÀ¢€™s closed,À¢€Â Jodie Hartfield said. À¢€œWe canÀ¢€™t get to the car, itÀ¢€™s 10 miles away. And the hotels are not cheap.À¢€Â
    Denver pharmacist Robert Helmer fumed about the delays after spending the night at the Denver airport – on the floor. He boarded a United flight for St. Louis Wednesday morning, only to sit on the runway for four hours, first because of a late-arriving flight attendant and then stuck in the snow.
    À¢€œThis isnÀ¢€™t an act of God,À¢€Â Helmer said. À¢€œIt was mismanagement by United.À¢€Â
    On Thursday, he waited angrily for a bus convoy organized by airport officials to take passengers to downtown Denver.
    À¢€œA lot of people are going to lose their holidays,À¢€Â said Joe Brancatelli, who runs a Web site for travelers called À¢€œThe smart ones may decide to just stay home.À¢€Â
    Inclement weather can make air travel a nightmare under the best of circumstances, and the impact is only magnified around holidays.
    But what makes Thursdayˢ۪s snags so daunting, travel experts said, is that airlines have tightened their belts in recent years to regain financial stability. That means there are fewer employees to help stranded passengers than in years past, and fewer empty seats to offer stranded fliers determined to reach their destinations.
    À¢€œThis is the worst-case scenario,À¢€Â Brancatelli said.
    Gummed-up service in London Рwhere more than 700 flights have been canceled since Tuesday Рreverberated across Europe, slowing travel to and from Helsinki, Vienna, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam. The majority of the cancellations at Heathrow, Europeˢ۪s busiest airport, affected British Airways travelers.
    Large passenger planes can land using electronics, but reduced visibility means that pilots have difficulty spotting other airplanes, thereby increasing the risk of collision. The need for extra spacing between airplanes means fewer planes can go in and out of the airport

  • guest

    You cannot stop mother nature.
    provided by the FAA’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center Denver International Airport (DEN) Real-time Status
    The status information provided on this site indicates general airport conditions; it is not flight-specific.
    Due to SNOW REMOVAL, the Denver International Airport (DEN) was closed as of Dec 20 at 02:45 PM MST. The date/time when the airport is expected to reopen is not known.
    Delays by Destination:
    Due to SNOW, the APA airport was closed as of Dec 20 at 21:12 UTC. The date/time when the airport is expected to reopen is not known.

    Due to SNOW, the BKF airport was closed as of Dec 20 at 17:59 UTC. The date/time when the airport is expected to reopen is not known.

    Due to SNOW, the FNL airport was closed as of Dec 20 at 21:13 UTC. The date/time when the airport is expected to reopen is not known.

    Due to SNOW, the FTG airport was closed as of Dec 20 at 21:13 UTC. The date/time when the airport is expected to reopen is not known.

    Due to WEATHER/WIND, departure traffic destined to Newark International Airport, Newark, NJ (EWR) is currently experiencing delays averaging 52 minutes.

    Due to WEATHER/LOW CIGS, departure traffic destined to Chicago Midway Airport, Chicago, IL (MDW) is currently experiencing delays averaging 1 hour and 31 minutes.

    Due to WEATHER/LOW CIGS., departure traffic destined to Chicago OHare International Airport, Chicago, IL (ORD) is currently experiencing delays averaging 3 hours and 42 minutes.

    Due to WEATHER/LOW CIGS/VIS, departure traffic destined to San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, CA (SFO) is currently experiencing delays averaging 1 hour and 45 minutes.

    General Departure Delays: Traffic is experiencing gate hold and taxi delays lasting 15 minutes or less.
    General Arrival Delays: Arrival traffic is experiencing airborne delays of 15 minutes or less.

    This information was last updated: Dec 22, 2006 at 1:37 AM GMT+00:00

  • And I have to come back!

    It’s just general incompetence
    We left Guarulhos Thursday the 14th. The wait to check in was one hour. However, the wait to clear emmigration was 1 1/2 hours? Why? Because THERE WERE ONLY THREE IMMIGRATION OFFICERS ON DUTY! Absolutely nuts.

  • ch.c.

    Ohhhhh la la !!!!
    Nice Christmas gift from your ATCs.
    A new threat…if you accuse one or more of them….in the recent plane crash !
    Hopefully you understand their message.

    And when they say that this time it is not due to them, sorry but doubtful that 1 airline would create such an overall mess.

    Finally truly funny that this time ANAC released a note apologizing for the delays, if they are not involved, but no apologizes when they were officially involved.

    A joke….these Brazilians. A bunch of crooks !

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