Another Normal Day at Brazil Airports: Cancellations, Delays and Chaos

Congonhas airport in São Paulo, Brazil Chaos in Brazilian civil aviation continues this week. From midnight to 10 am today, 43.6 of all flights in the country were cancelled or seriously delayed. On Monday 38% of flights were delayed and another 20% cancelled according to Infraero, the agency that manages the country's airports.

Since the week end chaos in Brazilian air space seems to have become the rule. Of the 1.637 flights scheduled Monday in Brazilian airports, 625 suffered delays of over an hour and another 328 simply did not take off.

On Saturday morning an electric breakdown knocked out the whole air control system in the north of the country affecting communications with Central and North America and forcing flights to be rerouted.

Problems have cascaded since last Tuesday when an Airbus 320 crashed in Congonhas, São Paulo and Brazil's busiest airport, killing, at the last count, 199 people.

The main landing strip has been since closed and was to be reopened Tuesday but hopes dissipated when heavy rainfall forced the collapse of the end of the runway, precisely where the Airbus shot past crashing into a TAM cargo storage and fuel depot. Congonhas is operating with an auxiliary runway.

Infraero president Brigadier José Carlos Pereira said "security comes first and we must take measures to address the issue. I'm afraid passengers will have to pay for increased security and this means higher air rates."

Pilots from TAM and Gol, the main Brazilian airlines, rerouted several flights from Congonhas to Cumbica arguing they feared to land under rainy conditions (as happened with the Airbus tragedy).

Last Friday, three days after Brazil's worst air accident, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said operations in Congonhas will be drastically reduced and promised a new airport for São Paulo, the country's industrial and trade hub.

An estimated three million people will be affected by the closure of Congonhas.

Pereira. who is under intense pressure from the press and opposition, had stated that Brazil can do without any foreign help, but now has softened his stance saying that Brazil welcomes international cooperation but from "competent organizations" such as the International Aviation Organization.



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