By Raju Shanbhag
Air traffic has increased significantly across Latin America, fuelled by the economic growth and expanding middle class. But not all airports are safe enough to land. Some of them are indeed modern and match with international standards, but some others hand over a luggage of bad memory to air travelers. Here is the ground reality of the region’s worst airports.
Sao Paulo Airport, Brazil
This is the second-busiest passenger airport in Latin America. But it seems the airport authorities have often found it tough to handle the busy traffic. Here, travelers feel frustrated at the sight of long queues and inefficiencies of the airport staff. It will be interesting to note that the airport has good infrastructure and there is no lack of modern amenities either. Going by the reviews of frequent flyers that use this airport, it’s the apathy of the airport staff which is giving the airport its bad name.
About 22.3 million passengers use The Sao Paulo airport every year. The airport is owned by the City of São Paulo and operated by Infraero.
Passengers routinely complain that have to stand in queues for up to 2 hours to get tickets and security clearance. Also, gates are allegedly changed without prior notice, adding more inconvenience to passengers. What is commonly heard is that the foods sold at the airport are extremely expensive and are of poor quality.
More than anything else, surveys say that only 41 percent of flights leave the airport as scheduled. As a result, the airport remains packed all the time, leaving the passengers with no option but to buy the expensive foods.
Maiquetia International Airport, Venezuela
Access to this airport in Venezuelan capital Caracas is not easy, because it is sandwiched between a sea and mountains. In 2006, one of the bridges on the way to the airport collapsed, leading the police to direct the road traffic to shabbily built narrow bylane.
As a result, going to the airport has become far more troublesome. A travel that took 45 minutes started to take 4 to 5 hours, and commuters had to move with fear as the bypass did not adhere to most of the safety measures of road construction.
A new viaduct was constructed in 2007, but the problem does not seem to have solved for ever. Now, drainage water from nearby slum settlements flow on the highway blocking the road traffic all along.
The local government has promised improved access routes to the airport. But that promise is yet to fulfilled.
Maiquetia International Airport often finds itself at the bottom of the ranking when customers rank airports in Latin America. Apart from the much-talked access issues, there are also problems with customs and baggage handling.
Cali in Colombia and Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport in Rio de Janeiro are also considered among the most hated airports in Latin America. Again, the inefficiencies of the airport and poor infrastructural facilities are cited as the major reasons for passengers’ dislike.
What can be done?
If the local government wants, all these problems can be fixed in a matter of days. Unlike other commercial places, passengers have to visit airports no matter how bad they are. This provides airports with some guaranteed flow of cash, which they should use to improve infrastructure.