Brazil’s First World-Class Airport Terminal Opens in São Paulo

Brazil hasn’t traditionally made it very difficult to give travelers a reason to complain about its airports: Most of them are outdated relics from the ’50s and ’60s and the ones that aren’t, such as Recife in the Northeast, come off at best as missed opportunities. Shopping? Not really. Good restaurants? Not really. Comfortable spaces to kill a few hours between flights, perhaps at a spa, in a sleeping pod or in a very nice cocktail bar? Not really.

That all changes with this month’s opening of Terminal 3 at GRU Airport – Aeroporto Internacional de São Paulo’s in Guarulhos, Brazil’s first world-class international airport terminal; a modern, 192,000-sq-m space designed to move 12 million international passengers per year.

Terminal 3 from the outside

Terminal 3 from the outside – photo courtesy of GRU

Upon arrival at departures level, the first thing that comes to mind is the design aesthetic of many of Asia and Europe’s best airports, with massive signage as tall as buildings providing the gateways to 90 check-in counters, distributed in three islands with 30 counters each.

 Departures level

Departures level – photo courtesy of GRU

After check-in, passengers enter the security area by passing through boarding card-reading scanner gates and that’s where a whole new world for Brazilian air passengers opens up. There are 100 commercial outlets, such as shops, bars, restaurants, and general services and 15 high-end shops in an area called “GRU Avenue.” Passengers can now give fast-food options like Bob’s a miss in favor of 27 restaurants, including Italian Caffé Pascucci, and finish off with dessert at Brazil’s best gelato, Bacio di Latte. There is even a Red Lobster and Olive Garden in the pre-security areas and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville post-security, three American comfort food restaurants that were previously nowhere to be found in Brazil. The country’s first Hudson News is also at the ready with English books and magazines.

Entrance to Terminal 3 from Terminal 2

Entrance to Terminal 3 from Terminal 2 – photo courtesy of Kevin Raub

Once satiated, passengers can now shop till they drop as well. Whereas in the secure passenger areas of Terminals 1 and 2, shopping was previously limited to very few options such as H. Stern and Dufry, T3 features brand name shops recognizable the world over, including Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry, GAP, Desigual, Diesel, Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors and Coach as well as a genuine Duty Free FNAC for electronics, smartphones and the like – items traditionally over-the-top expensive in Brazil can now be purchased by international passengers for US prices, including those departing to South American destinations, which will remain in the old terminal (there is a post-security passageway for travelers to bounce between terminals).

Shopping at Terminal 3

Shopping at Terminal 3 – photo courtesy of GRU

Behind the scenes, the new terminal is steeped in sustainability as well, favoring glass-walled natural lighting heavy-framed windows and rainwater-retaining roof whose waters will be treated and used for hand-washing basins in the bathrooms and flushing toilets.

Over the next 10 years, Terminals 1 and 2 will be given modern facelifts as well, bring the entire airport into the modern era with the addition of new parking buildings and real estate investments, including office buildings, hotels and a convention center.

Welcome to the future: There’s even a Travellator!

TAM operates nearly 50 flights per week between Miami, New York and Orlando to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

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