Brazil Pt XII: JJ 3687 GIG-GRU

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After more than three weeks in South America, we would head home from Rio. Ethiopian offered the cheapest flight back to Singapore (915.80 USD) and after they canceled the flight between Rio and São Paulo, they put us on a TAM flight.

We bid farewell to our host and headed to the airport after the end of the earlier matches at 3pm. Brazil’s final group match would kick off at 5pm and we were slightly worried about the availability of taxis during that. Luckily we got a taxi pretty easily and the ride there cost 50 BRL.

TAM Check-in counters at Terminal 2

Despite our early arrival, we were able to check in our bag and get our boarding passes. The agent was also able to add our frequent flyer number (Malaysia Airlines Enrich) to our booking.

Havaianas on sale

There would be a live screening on the air-side and we went through the security really early.

Glued to the screen

Brazil beat Cameroon easily and halfway through the match we decided to explore more of the terminal.

Air-side

Official fan shop with expensive merchandise

Sunset in GIG

Brazilian fans horsing around with accessories

We spent our remaining BRL on some snacks and waited out for our flight. It seemed that domestic gates could be turned into international gates with partitions; while we could visit the official fan shop during the match, we were blocked off later in the evening.

Flight: TAM JJ 3687
Depart: Rio de Janeiro-Galeão (GIG) – 20:45
Arrive: São Paulo–Guarulhos (GRU) – 21:55
Duration: 1h10m
Distance: 209 miles (336 km)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Registration: PR-MBA
Seat: 24F

Boarding was called by zone and we were able to board early.

View from 24F

Welcome World

Loading up the bags

Only service of the flight – pre-departure sweets

On the other side of the aisles, there were TAM GIG-based crew who were positioning to GRU for another (international?) flight. While none of the passengers got meals, the crew were only ones given hot meals during the flight.

Mid-flight

Arriving at GRU – I could spot Etihad and United

Our checked bags arrived safely at the luggage claim and then we headed to find the check-in rows for our Ethiopian flight to Addis Ababa.

Kids posing with Fuleco

Heading up to Departures

Found Ethiopian

Brazil Pt IV: JJ 3186 IGU – GIG

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JJ 3186

After bidding farewell to our hosts, we headed to the bus stop. We intended to take bus 120 to the airport but two went pass without stopping as they were too full.

Fearing that we might never get on the bus, we decided to get a taxi. It didn’t take much to convince the two Russian guys at the bus stop to share the taxi with us and we were at the airport 20 minutes later. The 11km taxi ride was 40 BRL, pretty expensive in my opinion.

The terminal felt rather claustrophobic with the low ceilings.

Check-in counters

Check-in

Check-in

Departures

Shirt selling World Cup merchandise

After getting our boarding passes, we went through the security to reach the holding area. Due to the number of flights departing around the same time, it was heaving with passengers.

TV’s showing football of course

There were a few shops and a cafe selling pão de queijo.

Jewellery shop

Ying and I kept wondering where the strange smell came from.

From pão de queijo of course

We saw our plane arrived and it had a special livery which celebrated 20 years of TAM’s loyalty programme Fidelidade.

Special livery

There was no aerobridge and we could walk from the terminal to the aircraft. We chose to board from the rear door.

Made up of many portraits

20 years of TAM Fidelidade

Tail

Flight: TAM JJ 3186
Depart: Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport (IGU) – 13:01
Arrive: Rio de Janeiro Galeão (GIG) – 15:00
Duration: 1h59m
Distance: 734 miles (1,181 km)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Registration: PR-MHS
Seat: 21B

Online check-in wasn’t available for TAM and I got a middle seat for the first time in a long while. The plane seemed to be full.

ABC

DEF

I settled down to my seat and started to rummage through the seat pocket content.

Seat pocket content

Resigned to no window

Safety video played on overhead screen

Take-off

The crew went around to distribute the snack and drinks after we got to cruising altitude.

Snack pack, TAM-style

In-flight meal and drink

With no window, the primary entertainment was the inflight magazine. It had quite a few interesting articles and kept me engaged for most of the flight.

I didn’t know TAM has a female CEO

World Cup Stats

Cycling cultures around the world

Alcohol in Saudi Arabia? Are you kidding me?

All about coffee

Article on parilla featured La Brigada

Recommendations for Rio

TAM Fleet

Pele selling SIM cards

Neymar Jr selling TVs

TAM ad featuring Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo

It seemed that we always got some awesome neighbour.

Not the first time

Almost there

We were welcomed to the rainy Rio de Janeiro by a row of Coca Cola ads.

Coca Cola in Korean

Japanese

Ad

While the belt for our plane was a generic one, Ying discovered that there was one with World Cup theme.

Our boring belt

Not in use

GOAL

I found out that it was possible to collect our World Cup match tickets at GIG from the website and we were keen to do that to avoid wasting time collecting them.

TAM uses Terminal 2 at GIG and World Cup ticket collection kiosks were over at Terminal 1. After getting assistance from a friendly guy at the information counter, we followed the signs to Terminal 1.

GIG Terminal 2

Avian with GOL in the background, taken along the walkway linking T1 and T2

The ticket collection point at GIG Terminal 1 was well-staffed and one volunteer told us that it would be much faster to use the self-service machines.

Self service machines

Needed the card that I used to pay

Fuleco made sure that we got our tickets

Pre-Trip Pt III: Planning – Route & Air Tickets

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We are going around the world!

Ying and I discussed at length on how long we could be away for and where we would like to go. In the end, based on our budget, we reckoned that we could get away for five weeks from end-May onwards.

It made sense for us to put Rio de Janeiro (and the World Cup Match) as the final stop of our trip. Brazil is going to be expensive and I wouldn’t want to overspend there and then be forced to live on a tight budget for the rest of South America. We had an idea of where we wanted to go and started to put the flights in place.

Flights that we bought in chronological order:-

1. IGU-GIG TAM Y

Iguazu Falls on the Argentine/Brazilian border seemed to be a must-go for every visitor to South America and it wasn’t hard to convince us to include it into our itinerary.

Soon after the draw was made, we decided to purchase our air tickets between Foz do Iguaçu (IGU) and Rio de Janeiro (GIG) on TAM (USD 139.49 each) as I feared that the domestic air ticket prices would shoot through the roof during World Cup. My fear came true; the cheapest ticket on the same flight is USD 306.62 now (29 April 2014).

IGU-GIG (USD 139.49)

2. GIG-ADD-SIN ET Y

The next ticket that we purchased was our flight back to Singapore from Rio de Janeiro. The cheapest option was on Ethiopian Airlines which was at least USD 400 cheaper than the next alternative.

Both Ying and I haven’t been to Africa before and we decided to break the long trip between Brazil and Singapore with a 3-day stay in Addis Ababa.

The original route

The ticket cost USD 915.80 each (slightly cheaper if there is no stopover at ADD) and earns 100% miles on most Star Alliance frequent flyer programs.

Sometime in February, Ying received an e-mail (I didn’t) that there was a change in schedule in our itinerary. I logged in to find this screen:-

This is not good

Apparently ET has canceled its service to GIG and only flies to GRU. Our flight would start in GRU, not GIG. It took me a week and several e-mails before ET changed to our desired flight. In their defense, the ET reservation team was very responsive and I was glad that they resolved the issue to my satisfaction in the end.

GIG-GRU-LFW-ADD-BKK-SIN (USD 915.80)

3. LAX-ATL-LIM DL Y

I found a really great deal departing from Los Angeles for Lima on Delta (via Atlanta) for USD 281.20.

It didn’t take me very long to realize that the price was very good for the distance covered. Furthermore this presented us the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca on this trip.

We jumped on the offer after securing our ticket from SIN to Los Angeles (see below).

LAX-ATL-LIM (USD 281.20)

4. SIN-HND, NRT-LAX SQ J

After learning about the Delta deal, I started to research on how to get to Los Angeles from Singapore. As I hadn’t been to US before, we thought that three days around LA would be nice.

We also realized that we were sitting on some credit card points which could be converted to sufficient Krisflyer miles for two business-class SQ tickets to Los Angeles. The flights to LAX seemed available on the days that we wanted.

However, by the time our Krisflyer miles were banked in, there was no longer any availability on the SIN-NRT sector on SQ 12. Luckily, there were seats available on the previous day’s SQ 634 and we would have a 20-hour stopover in Tokyo. We are certainly not complaining!

SIN-HND, NRT-LAX (68,000 Krisflyer miles + SGD 409.20 taxes and surcharges + SGD 50 miles conversion fee)

5. SLA-AEP-IGR

With the long-haul flights settled, I started to research on the short-haul ones within South America. From Cusco, we plan to travel overland to Argentina (via Bolivia and Chile). We will enter Argentina on the northwestern side (Salta) and exit through the northeastern side (Puerto Iguazu). Due to the large distance involved and the limited time we have, we decided to fly instead of taking 20 to 30 hours of bus ride each way.

It was a straight choice between Aerolíneas Argentinas and LAN. Both are equally expensive but LAN has slightly better reviews from the wise people on Flyertalk.

It seemed that there are cheaper fares available but those fares can only be bought by Argentine residents. Apparently there are checks at the airport and reports of passengers being denied boarding are not unknown. We wouldn’t want to chance it

My friend who recently returned from a trip to Argentina gave me a useful tip on checking out the prices on OTA instead of the airlines’ website. Indeed it was USD 80 cheaper on Orbitz!

SLA-AEP-IGR (USD 315.60)

Addendum 19 May 2014: Orbitz sent me an e-mail a couple of days ago to inform me that my flight reservation was changed. I logged on to see and found that we were put on LA 4113 for the SLA-AEP sector. It departs SLA at 1510 and arrives at AEP at 1714. I wasn’t happy at all with the change but there was no earlier LAN flight. A thumbs down for LAN even before flying with them.

6. LIM-CUZ

Our flight from US would reach Lima late at night. We decided to slum it at LIM and would take an early flight to Cusco. There are four operators on this route: LAN, TACA, Peruvian and Star Peru.

LAN and TACA are the two biggest carriers in the country and they practice discriminatory pricing against non-residents on the major tourist routes. While Peruvian residents pay USD 125 for a LIM-CUZ ticket, non-residents have to cough up USD 185 to be on the same flight.

Then I discovered British Airways Avios. Redemption on British Airways’ frequent flyer program is distance-based and the number of Avios needed to redeem a ticket between Lima and Cusco (~360 miles) is only 4500.

Avios Award Chart – Source: The Points Guy

I just renewed my Citibank Premier Miles Visa for SGD 192.60 and received 10,000 bonus premier miles. British Airways is one of Citibank’s partners and premier miles could be converted to Avios for redemption (another SGD 25 for miles transfer). The total cost per person summed up to be SGD 112.37, cheaper than any revenue fares from the four airlines.

LIM-CUZ [4,500 Avios (SGD 86.67) + SGD 13.20 (Taxes) + SGD 12.50 (Conversion fee shared between two people) = SGD 112.37]

7. LPB-UYU

We would be traveling from Cusco to La Paz (via Lake Titicaca) overland. From La Paz we would head to Uyuni, the starting point of the tour to Salar de Uyuni. The bus ride would take 10 to 12 hours while a plane ride takes between 45 and 60 minutes.

To save time, we chose to fly. Only Amaszonas offers two daily flights and online booking. Although kinda pricey at 130 USD, it saved us 10 hours of bumpy ride across Bolivia.

LPB-UYU (~133 USD)

From Salar de Uyuni, we would travel to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile before taking the bus across the Andes to Salta. More details would be shared in the later posts.

Summary

SIN-HND, NRT-LAX, LAX-ATL-LIM, LIM-CUZ, LPB-UYU, SLA-AEP, AEP-IGR, IGU-GIG, GIG-GRU-LFW-ADD, ADD-BKK-SIN

21 May
SQ 637 SIN – HND

22 May
SQ 12 NRT – LAX

25 May
DL 2155 LAX – ATL
DL 151 ATL – LIM

26 May
LA 2025 LIM – CUZ

3 June
Z8 300 LPB – UYU

12 June
LA 4111 SLA – AEP
LA 4113 SLA – AEP

17 June
LA 4022 AEP – IGR

19 June
JJ 3186 IGU – GIG

23 June
JJ 3687 GIG – GRU

24 June
ET 507 GRU – LFW – ADD

28 June
ET 626 ADD – BKK – SIN

Total distance traveled: 27220 miles

I’m excited as I will be going around the world for the first time!