Thursday, June 12, 2014

Surprise and Delight - São Paulo

In business school, I had a professor of marketing whose favorite refrain was "surprise and delight" your customer.  Today, after a long US-based saga of travel, I was surprised and delighted here in Brazil. So much so, I have to sit down and write about it before I do anything else. But let me set the stage.

My last blog post was about the new Terminal 3 at Guarulhos International Airport in São Paulo. It is a lovely building. You can see it from the outside here--this is a photo taken from the ramp to the parking garage where I had left "the Beast" (BH's ginormous Volvo) on Saturday night. That post was the last happiness in air travel for this past five days...until this morning. 

We flew United to Newark (delayed half an hour out of GRU, for no apparent reason), got stuck in an hour-long immigration line (because BH is B and not US, I had to go through the non-resident line. Not good.) and missed our connection to Boston by 20 minutes. The United helpers told us the rest of the day's flights were full to Boston but that we could fly to Providence instead. So off we went to Providence. Well, all of us except for one of our bags. And paid $200 more for the rental car because we were picking up in one airport and dropping off in another. I must say the PVD airport is very nice, though. I'm thinking about using that one more often.

BH is staying in Boston until Saturday. So it was just me returning to the airport on Tuesday night. There were two brief downpours at 4 pm which meant that my flight was delayed and I would miss my connection in Washington DC. I decided to stay the night, leaving my bags to be sorted and sent to meet me in Newark the next day. All this is to say that I did not have nice flight experiences in the US. Though United personnel were surprisingly fun and happy.

So, I was now taking a flight back on the eve of the World Cup start. Yes, it kicks off at 5 pm today. I was worried about lines at the airport, protests, traffic, everything. The plane was absolutely chock-a-block--Mexican fans, Spain, Costa Rica, Ecuador, US, you name it. As we landed (on time!), the flight attendant gave her usual announcements and then said she was cheering for Portugal. Then the PA was quiet for 30 seconds then the first officer came on and said "Go USA!"and then from somewhere, who knows where, 2 minutes later came "Viva Mexico" from the PA. Fun and funny.

We came into Terminal 3 again. Delightful. Still has a number of workers around doing last minute stuff (no holiday for the weary airport workers). There was zero line for Brazilians and residents (me). I literally walked up to the police and handed my passport over. There was a perhaps 20-minute line for foreigners but tons of windows open. Maybe less. By the time I had walked from the plane, spent 1 minute at immigration and walked to the baggage carrousel, all the bags were out. Unbelievable. 

This guy is thinking "what? I can't believe our bags are already here! wow!"

They ran everyone's bags through the x-ray machines, but all three lanes were open and efficient. Then I walked out to the garage from the walkway on the second floor, and put my key in the ignition exactly 39 minutes after stepping off the plane. An all-time record for days that I have had luggage (always, really). I did look down on the walkway and there was no line for taxis (a friend spent 2 hours in the taxi line on Monday). Tons of taxis. No traffic. Home an hour and fifteen minutes after landing. Spectacular.

So let me sum things up this way:

1. If you can fly any of the airlines that are currently assigned to Terminal 3, do so. These are: Air Canada, United, Lufthansa, Eithiad, Emirates, Turkish, Swiss, TAP. Do not be loyal to airlines if you are all "I'm an AA super-platinum all-star"--it doesn't count for crap if you come into the Terminal 1 or 2 mess. Fly the friendly skies. Trust me.

2. If you are a resident of São Paulo and going for a short trip, do the math on leaving your car at the parking garage. It may be cheaper than taking the taxi back and forth. And no taxi line and you can use your sem-parar. It does not get easier than this. Yes, you have to hoof a 1/4 mile from the arrivals gate at Terminal 3 but it's pleasant and easy.  

3. If you do have to take a taxi and the line is ginormous at Terminals 1 or 2, you may want to ask the officials at Guarucoop if there are taxis at Terminal 3. Then walk there. It may be worth it.

4. Might want to consider coming in on Brazil game days after all. No traffic. None. 

Traffic on Marginal: Brazil flags and military police cars
5. Prepare for the worst, and celebrate the best. I was ready to spend hours in lines. I spent no times in any lines. Surprise and delight, professor Carpenter...I get it!

6. Vai Brasil!

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