Hi and welcome to the return segment of this Rio trip with a sizeable bonus at the end of this FR.
My schedule is as follows:
SFO-MIA in Y - will not report. MIA-GIG in Y -.click here GIG-JFK in J - you are here. JFK-SFO in Y - will not report.
Rio has become one of my favorite cities. Few places in the world can compete with its magnificent physical layout and breathtaking views, but I find that the local "cariocas" are just as equally compelling with their openness and friendliness. Despite all the negativity and seemingly insurmountable problems that plague this country, I have encountered people who still enjoy life and are always willing to lend a smile. Personally I think that this says a lot about a particular culture and speak volumes about the resilience of its people.
During this trip I took a lot of taxi rides throughout the city and this was surprisingly a positive experience. All my drivers we polite and with some I was even able to engage in lively conversations. A few took their time to point at interesting landmarks as we passed them and one even tried to find out for me if a particular restaurant was open when he suspected that it was closed. Most importantly, they were all honest and I never felt that I was taken advantage of as a visitor. On the other hand, I had more drivers try to scam me the few times that I have used a taxi in the U.S. in places like FLL and LAS. I usually approach taxi drivers like car salesmen and I was pleasantly surprised by Rio.
Moving on to the main topic, on my last day I requested a late check out and when the front desk asked me what time I had in mind and I replied 14:00, it was granted without a problem. This meant that we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare which I did not mind. We took the hotel car which dropped us at GIG T2. I was glad to see some improvements since my last trip about 8 months ago. There is now a new wing with more gates and passport control has been relocated to a more spacious lower level. In addition there were more spaces allocated to shops and restaurants, although not all of them were open. Overall this was a welcome improvement over the "old" terminal that I saw.
The AA counter was not open but we were able to check in through the self service kiosk and were issued some flimsy boarding passes. Last year I was not able to do that and the kiosks were not activated until the counters opened. However, it seems that the check-in kiosks are now more generic and feature other carriers besides AA.
Sign instructing passengers where to check-in inside the terminal.
AA counter and kiosk.
We presented the boarding passes to a lady at the entrance to the secured area that was marked "Intl flights" and she sent us further up. i thought that perhaps there was now another entrance but upon walking a few meters and seeing nothing we turned back and this time there was a gentleman who took our passes and tried to scan the barcodes without success. Finally he made a manual inspection of the documents matching our names to the boarding passes and overrode the system to let us pass. So much for improvement I guess. The self service kiosks spit out boarding passes that can't be read by scanners to the secured area.
After going through security we now had to go one level down to the new Passport Control which was fairly empty. Once the passports were stamped we exited through Duty Free. The area after Duty Free was a work in progress since there were signs for shops that were not opened yet.
Exiting Duty Free.
Heading toward the lounge area by the old gates.
Seats had plugs to charge your electronics.
The windows are really dirty.
A snack bar between two WC's???? How appetizing!
H. Stern is everywhere, even in front of each other which is overkill.
We couldn't enter the Admirals Club until 16:30 and while we waited for half an hour my relatives decided to do some shopping so I decided to check out the TAM lounge which is managed by ProAir and shared with other airlines. I can't believe that in a hub like GiG, LATAM does not have its own lounge.
Entrance to ProAir lounge.
i showed my AA EXP card and boarding pass to the attendant and she kindly referred me to the Admirals Club. I asked if I can take a peek at this lounge for a few minutes and she allowed me in without a problem.
The lounge is nothing to write home about and consists of a large main seating area with a couple of different smaller sections. The buffet featured snacks that are similar to what one can find at the AA's Admirals club. They seem to be catered by the same company after all.
More seating area.
I did not stay for long and after I left the lounge the spotting became a bit more interesting with the AF and EK planes ready for departure.
I then visited the Admirals Club with my party. The attendant welcomed us warmly and invited us to sit inside while she straightened out some information that apparently the agent in SFO has entered into the wrong name. Not much has changed at this lounge except that the showers are now operational. However, it can only be used by one individual at a time and it is very utilitarian. Also snacks seemed to be clearly marked and there are new items available like pasta with 2 types of sauces and mini pizzas.
Entrance through GOL lounge where an agent advised us to go down the hallway and take an elevator up.
Later on I decided to ask for a shower and one of the agents advised me that he will check and will get me when it is ready. I was escorted by one of the cleaning staff to the WC's where the shower was located at the end. It was nothing fancy and very basic. The room consisted of two showers, but only one was operational due to privacy issues and there was no toilet. The shower head was connected to an electrical plug on the wall to heat the water as it passed through it. If the pressure is high, it will not heat the water properly so it was best to use low pressure.
Afterwards the wheelchair came as promised to pick up a member of my party and take us to the gate. We left about 40 min. before departure and I was told that the new gate area was a good 10-15 min. walk from the lounge.
The new wing of terminal 2 with the "C" gates.
LATAM ads are everywhere.
I love these Rio ads.
Cleaning staff in rollerskates.
We arrived at the gate and the agents scanned our boarding passes right away in order to let us board first. I did not have much time to get the camera out but this is what going down to jetbridge looks like.
Upon boarding a flight attendant welcomed us aboard with a big smile and pointed us to the side where our seats were located. An amenity kit, menu and wrapped pillow with blanket were on each seat. Notice the new AA menu covers.
Seat with touch controls.
Another set of buttons to adjust your seat while you are lying flat.
Odd partition for those sitting in the middle. You can't really lower it in case you are sitting with someone you know. This seems like a design flaw.
"Leave me alone" sign outside your seat.
I found the storage space somewhat limiting and only for small items.
After settling down pre-dept. drinks were offered.
My sister helping herself.
I had some orange juice that tasted very artificial.
Newspapers and magazines were offered from a cart. (I did not take a pic. of this.)
New Cole Haan amenity kit. I think that the newest edition was more useful and practical than the previous one.
We took some time taxiing out and right after take off the service started with distribution of Bose headphones and hot towels.
I pre-ordered the seafood dish and this was acknowledged when orders were taken by the flight attendant. I was also asked if I wanted to be awakened for breakfast and I said yes.
Warm nuts to start.
Followed by distribution of the meals from a cart.
Curry chicken appetizer.
Salad with seasonal greens.
Pão de queijo.
Seafood brodetto. This dish was fine but instead of polenta cakes I would have preferred some mashed potatoes or bread toasts to better absorb the broth.
When your tray is cleared, the FA offered a choice between ice cream with cookie crumbles, cheese plate or "homemade" coconut cake. I chose the cheese plate and in case that I wanted something sweet later on I could always grab some pastries from the buffet.
In the meantime I watched a movie. (I have an aversion for certain movies whose plots are predictably simplistic in which the good guy kicks the bad guy's butt and everyone lives happily ever after.)
After the movie it was time for a snack. AA has one of the best "help yourself" premium cabin buffets. One of the few areas where it actually excels.
The sweet corner.
At first the tray with the pastries was not unwrapped. When I returned sometime later it was set up.
Out of curiosity I asked if there was any coconut cake left and the FA gave me a sample.
The savory corner.
The WC located by door 2L in the 772 is designated as handicap so it is quite roomy.
Breakfast service started a little over 1 hr. before arrival.
As we were preparing for descent I asked one of the flight attendants in the galley for a Customs form and he brought me one immediately to my seat. i later heard an announcement apologizing for the lack of forms and asking everyone to get the forms once on the ground including passengers in J.
We left 46 min. later but arrived 15 min. earlier at 06:05.
****** BONUS *******
Arcos de Lapa and Santa Teresa in Centro.
Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Sebastian.
It's been said that if there is ever an outage in Rio, Leblon will be the first place where power would be restored.
Leblon is the most affluent neighborhood in the city but once you get away from its shopping mall you find a more laid back and low-key side.
I love coming back to this restaurant to get a feel of old Rio and its dishes.
Service by the white coat and black bowtie waiters is always professisonal and a throwback to tradition. Once the food is brought to your table the server proceeds to transfer the food from the serving dish to the guest's plate individually with the use of a serving fork and spoon.. Nowadays this method of "service à l'anglaise" is rarely seen at casual midrange restaurants and is part of the charm here.
Beef tongue in Madeira sauce (one of the most popular dishes here)
Filet Oswaldo Aranha with fried garlic on top. Beef is never overcooked in Brazil. ;)
Chicken steak with greens, rice and farofa.
Pérgula restaurant @ Belmond Copacabana Palace.
The Belmond Copacabana is an iconic landmark in Rio and considered to be South America's best hotel. We had a great lunch by the swimming pool. The service was flawless yet friendly and casual.
Foie gras butter.
Filet mignon with herb butter served with Basmati rice and Biju flour.
Grilled baby loster with rosemary potatoes.
Beef casserole served with white rice, sautéed vegetables, toasted manioc, fried egg, fried breaded banana and noisette potatoes.
American Airlines Admirals Club
Rio De Janeiro - GIG
New York - JFK
What a difference 8 months can make. GIG has expanded and the new "C" gates have given the terminal more space to accommodate more traffic, something that was sorely needed.
The Admirals club is a temporary facility and I think that it will eventually move to the "C" area. In the meantime, the showers are fully operational now and although basic, it is always nice to have an option to take a shower before a flight.
Comfort aboard was good but if you are sharing the middle rows in J, the partition seems ill conceived and it feels more like an afterthought to ensure a minimum of privacy.
Service was polite and pleasant, although not very soliciting. Nevertheless, for a flight that departs this late, I wouldn't expect too much in terms of service since everybody goes to sleep or watch the IFE right after the meal. Even though a wheelchair was requested, it never showed up on arrival in JFK. Three flight attendants stayed with us right after all passengers deplaned and they made sure that we were updated and comfortable. That was greatly appreciated.
The catering on South American flight does not seem to receive a high priority like the ones to Australia and the Far East. It looks less elaborate compared to those routes and there was not an option for "express meal".
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