Carnaval Brings Back Lines and Delays at Brazil’s Airports

Congonhas, in São Paulo, the busiest Brazilian airport It happened on November 1st during the All Souls Day celebration and then again during the Christmas holiday. The arrival of Carnaval, which is being celebrated for 5 days starting Friday night, marked also the return of the dreaded airport blues and delays in all main air corridors in Brazil.

This Friday, February 16, 37.7% of all flights were delayed for at least 45 minutes. That meant that from 1662 flights scheduled for yesterday 622 had considerable delays throughout the whole day and until late at night.

Brasí­lia's International Airport, in the Brazilian capital, had it worst with more than half of all flights postponed for a long period. In Congonhas, São Paulo, the country's busiest airport, at 9 pm, 55 of arrivals and departures were late.

In contrast with the chaos registered in the past, passengers seemed to take it all in stride. It helped that this time there were no huge check-in lines and flights weren't delayed up to 24 hours as it happened in past holidays.

Anticipating the worst, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had an emergency meeting Friday morning with Defense Minister, Waldir Pires and Milton Zuanazzi, the National Agency of Civil Aviation's director, to ensure that all measures were taken to avoid a repetition of the Christmas season bedlam.

Pires told the President there was no reason for worry. "I hope everything works fine and that the Brazilian people have the right to come and go peacefully during this Carnaval," wished the minister.

Brazilian flight controllers, who in recent months organized work-to-rule campaigns, released an official note denying that they were planning on disrupting flights during Carnaval.  Said they, "There isn't and never was any kind of movement, action or organization with the intention of creating havoc to the National Air Traffic during the Carnaval holidays or during any other occasion."

And the Brazilian Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Association's note added: "Any kind of information on the possibility of a  claim action organized by this institution or any one of our federated associations is groundless and totally irresponsible."

There were reports that the flight controllers were planning a work-to-rule campaign to coincide with the Carnaval season. An action by president Lula may have prevented it. Just yesterday, Lula announced that he was dismissing the Air Force commander brigadier Luiz Carlos Bueno and placing brigadier Juniti Saito in his place.

Bueno had been a source of considerable friction with the controllers while Saito is seen as a more conciliatory figure. Saito, the second in command until now, was, for example, against the decision of keeping the controllers locked for days in the Brasí­lia's control center during the days of crisis.

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