Azul Airlines: Live the Aventura.

The shortest path to disappointment is attachment to an outcome.

Go along for the ride, enjoy the sights, and eventually you’ll end up where you are supposed to be (which if you are lucky is where you originally intended).

The morning starts off just like any other layover – roll out of bed early, double check kit, check flight status, check out from hotel and hop the shuttle to the airport.

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Ready for Round Two of Travel.

Slip the driver a 10 note (Real to CDN is about 3:1) which is followed by some extra help getting kit onto a cart. A bit of courtesy (obrigado vs gracias) and a few extra dollars. Sometimes it can pay dividends down the road.

Bee line for the info desk in Terminal 2 of GIG and ask about the location of the Azul checkin. No need to repeat myself and the instructions were quite clear. The airport is certainly making an effort to ensure English is the second language used throughout in advance of the Olympics. The state of the terminal expansion on the other hand leaves one to wonder if they will be done in time. It is Latin America after all and things get done when they get done (refer to ‘Italian Savings Time’ for the European variant).

At the checkin, looks like a pair of flights are stacked – one at 0932hrs  and one at 0945hrs (mine). Line up moves at a snails pace. One of the automated checkin kiosks for those without baggage is out of commission and the remaining two appear to be commandeered by a pair of tech neophytes (if the look of frustration and impatience of those behind is any indication).

Plop into the queue. Inch along, inch along, inch along. Checkin – hand over passport and itinerary. Motion at conveyer, lift glider bag, query “OK?”.

“Ok.”

On goes the bag. I get a boarding pass, the bag gets a tag and I’m off to security.

At the X-ray, I start pulling out the baggy of liquids. The security staff want no part of that and motion for me to put them back in. Nice to see not every country in the world is petrified of such nefarious tools of terror: toothpaste and saline.

At the gate, I get the first sign things are about to go “Frak it, we’ll do it live.”

All flights involving my connection – Belo Horizonte are listing as Atrasado -> delayed.

No matter the airline.

Mine slips 45 mins and jumps 3 gates until we have something to board – looks like an Embraer take on the A320/737. Seating is 2+2 throughout, leather. Legroom is better than the North American domestics.

Service offerings are curious – water, OJ, or Coke Zero (??). Bagged salted snacks are handed out by one of the attendants followed each time by what sounded like ‘bom chi chi’.

Mid way through the PA kicks in and I get my first lesson in Brazilian airlines – the longer the announcement, the worse the news. I have no clue what is being told my fellow pax, but the rolling of eyes says enough. I turn on the inflight entertainment system and select the map view. We start one of many figure 8’s to the east of Belo. Storms? I can only guess because there is next to no turbulence. Flying in the Mid-West, the first sign there might be a storm nearby is the drop followed by the loud bang of the wings catching lift again. Then the seat belt sign. Than maybe an announcement.

Here, nothing but figure-8s.

PA comes to life. The message is longer. I hear Campinas. I pull out the inflight magazine and look for the airports Azul uses. Campinas is their main hub, 600 kms SW of here (in exactly the opposite direction I need to go). Just as I hope I misheard the announcement the map shows a quick turn west, an acceleration to 790 kph, and a climb to 10k meters.

O…k…

Campinas, it is.

Then just we pass over Belo, another announcement, short. People clap. The map shows a turn north and a slowing.

Maybe Belo?

Descending.

Belo.

A few small bumps on the way down, a few showers.

No sign of any storms. Half way there….ready for the home stretch….

Half way? Not by a long shot.

We touch down around noonish and my connection is supposed to depart in 20 mins. Under normal circumstances there would be little chance of my making the flight, let along my bag.

But these are not normal circumstances. We depart the plane to find the terminal inundated with stranded pax. The flight status board is filled with Atrasado – delayed. Gol, TAM, Azul – everyone is atrasado.

My flight to Governador Valadares is listed as Confirmed, but I remain skeptical. It should be listed as boarding or closed. But nope, just confirmed. No gate assigned.

1220 comes and goes. Still confirmed. Then delayed. Then it just disappears. No trace anywhere on the boards.

I wander the terminal until coming across Azul’s Customer Service desk. A nexus of angry pax. Wonder how long before this turns into a Vancouver Stanley Cup riot with folk smashing stuff, flipping’n’burning cop cars, and making out in the middle of the road?

Wait. Observe.

Pax are frustrated, animated.

No riot.

Dive into the Latin American queue – aka – free for all.

At the desk, “English?”

“Nao, disculpe.”

“gayet f-eye-ve.”

Gate 5. Ok.

Velvet ropes keep the queue somewhat orderly.

Inch along.

Head of the line, hand over Boarding Pass for connection and query, “English?” The CSR (Customer Service Rep) hails the attention a co-worker, a lad with glasses.

I query for information.

He clearly doesn’t understand what I am saying and flags the attention of another passenger who speaks decent English. I explain my confusion over the disappearance of my flight from the status boards. The eventual translated response, “We don’t know.”

O…K…

But if I want a voucher to get food in the lobby of the terminal (and go back through security), they can help.

I explain I don’t need a voucher, just need info.

“Discuple.”

O…K…

Plop down on the floor along the windows overlooking the tarmac and runway (the place is jammed). Thankfully Belo has joined the 20th Century and provides free wifi. Onto WhatsApp, msg Steve (the organizer in GV) explaining the situation. Eventually he finds out via the airport in GV that the flight has been bumped to 1630 hrs.

No sign of it on the status boards.

Meanwhile, flights begin landing and leaving, clearing the herd from the terminal.

1530 hrs, I go back to the desk and ask a blonde haired lady, “English?”

“Nao, mas…”

She pulls over a coworker (thats the way it should be done).

The co-worker, a fair haired gent (young), asks in English how he can help me.

I explain the situation regarding my flight.

Immediately he responds, “Your flight is boarding immediately, Gate R1. Down the hall, past Gate 7, turn right, down stairs.”

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Time to jet.

 

Got it.

Run.

Right turn.

Stairs.

Run.

Gate R1.

People are getting ready to board a bus to head out to what I expect will be a puddle jumping turboprop.

Onto the bus, arrive at the far north end of the tarmac.

An ATR-42 awaits us. Yep, a puddle jumper. If there are storms about, this should be an interesting flight. Still recall the trip from Tamworth to Sydney where there was a scream of “I don’t want to die.” from a commuting Qantas CSR as we were hit by a microburst on approach.

In any case, I digress.

We file onto the plane and take our seats. A few minutes pass before the pilots spool up the turbines. Ahh, A/C.

A few more minutes. A SkyCap for Azul arrives and takes over the PA. The message is long. Lovely. The plane powers down. We wait…and wait. The bus arrives, folk file back off.

Onto the bus, back to the terminal. I ask the SkyCap ‘English?”

A notion of so-so with a look of no.

I point at the plane and motion across throat – asking if there is a tech problem with the plane.

“Nao. Cancel.”

Then “dezessete” (17) followed by something I don’t understand.

Ahh. We are being bumped to the 1730 hrs flight.

I nod and motion I understand.

Azul has a bit of a rep for last minute cancellation. Something potential pax of the airline need to know about. I just never expected them to take it so close to the wire.

In the terminal 1730 hrs comes and goes.

Another long announcement in Portuguese. Folk look flabbergasted now.

Time passes and another set of boarding passes are handed out. The CSR organizing the effort is a gent who is about 30 or 40 years old (maybe a station manager). He shows a remarkable amount of patience explaining whatever the situation is to the pax who query him, all the while trying to sort out on the phone and computer the mess that I full suspect airline has dealt him.

Up I wander when it looks like he is finished piecing back together this charlie foxtrot of a day.

“English?”

“Yes.”

By the Word of Blake, there is salvation!

I ask what is going to happen.

Looks like we are being flown to the next town over – Ipatinga. Once there we will collect our bags and board a bus for GV.

Ok. A km closer to GV is one less km I need to worry about. Just hope my bags make it.

The CSR is very apologetic for the situation.

“No prob, getting upset means you are taking life too seriously.”

Response: A laugh. Don’t think he had many folk ok with just rolling with it.

Back onto the plane, another ATR. I don’t make out much aside from ‘libre’. I point at the seats and ask, “Libre?” “Sim.”

Open seating. Got it.

Aisle row. Back of the plane.

We lift off (yay!) and proceed to Ipatinga. The only thing that stands out is the seat belt sign coming on as we pass through any sort of cloud. I am seriously starting to think Brazil has some nasty vomit comet sort of turbulence just lurking in the shadows or these pilots REALLY need to get some airtime in North America.

Ipatinga. Rain. At the base of the stairway a CSR stands handing out umbrellas to all of the pax – a rather nice touch. Never see that back home. I decline, toss on the Team Canada ball cap from OST and head to the pint size terminal.

Bags eventually arrive and I see my saran wrapped beastie. A silent ‘Thank you” to the powers that be.

Get the bag to the double decker tour bus and board, staying on the first floor and opting for a small 12 seat room in a 2+2 config. Over the stereo a cover of Roxettes “It must have been love.” is blaring. I don’t care. Last row. Claim both seats, pull cap down over eyes and try to get some rest.

Arriving @ GV, I pop my head out to see if Steve might have gotten my message about a 10PM arrival. No Steve, no taxis. Best to chance it in town at the bus station. GVR has free wifi, but a much more involved sign up/in process means I manage to only get one msg out to Steve before pulling out of range.

Hopefully he will see it.

GV Bus station. 1020 PM. I stand out like a gringo sore thumb. A young Brazilian lad and Brit wander past me – I ask, “Steve?”

“YES!”

Found him. My kit was packed up so small (thank you Skywalk for the Range Air making packing a lot easier) that the ‘kid’ (retrieve driver Yuri) didn’t think I was a PG pilot at first glance.

But, found I am and off to meet up with everyone for a bite to eat.

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