TAM Economy Class Review (Brazil Domestic) Rio de Janeiro (GIG) to Recife (REC)
After my visit to Rio - I made my way back to GIG airport. It's just 11 miles but traffic is completely unpredictable and it can take two hours to get there. UberX is now in Rio de Janeiro but it was constantly surging (often 2.7x) so I wasn't sure if I'd find a an Uber at Rush Hour. I was lucky though and around 5 PM no surge showed and a friendly Uber driver (with no English skills) would come by and pick me up. It just took about an hour for the 11 miles which is a great time given the rush hour traffic. The total came out to $12.97 - I felt a little bad :(
TAM has a huge check-in area at Terminal 2 which is much newer than Terminal 1 which is a dump (see my flight review with COPA in 2013). But it's very unfinished. Check in was easy but the agent was very convinced that my carry-on needed to be check in. The limit is just 7 kg and mine came out to 13.5 kg. Bags are free to check so I gave in.
I asked about the lounge and to my surprise no lounge exists for domestic flights. For any airline!
The airports is somewhat confusing as many amenities are spread between the different levels. There departure hall before security is as barren as it gets - it feels much more like a construction site than a terminal. To my surprise the airport WiFi in the check-in area is fast though (it is very slow past security, confusingly though).
Between arrivals and departures is a another level with a food court and a nicely done Starbucks. This is also the only place with proper outlets. I few more shops including a pharmacies is there (which was great since my power adapter had given up).
Security is like TSA Pre here for everyone - it barely exists. Brazil never had any major terrorism issues and no flight hijackings so it's somewhat understandable. The boarding area isn't bad with a few more shops that sell pretty dangerous looking food. My flight to Recife was boarding late and it was completely full. TAM uses those high density A320 with minimal seat pitch. I could just about fit in.
What I realized without all those checked luggage the boarding and deplaning is so much faster. Amazing!
The announcement are all in Portuguese with TAM Domestic - not that I was looking for something surprising but I was curious of our route. The 1,250 miles would take us 3 hours and we'd basically follow the Atlantic coast straight up north. We had a constant set of turbulence - nothing really bad though. The flight attendants would come out with a small snack package and water halfway through the flight. They were super friendly and took their time with everyone wish. It's like flying is still a super exciting thing.
What I noticed not a single person had a laptop open or even noise cancellation headphones. People were napping or just relaxing. Clearly I wasn't in the US!
LAN/TAM has a great on-board entertainment system with tons of movies and shows to stream directly to your device. The catch? You need to install the app before your flight. On my laptop it would not work either since the required 'dmg file' would not install. No movies for me oh well.
We arrived on time in Recife - what was off that we flew EAST but changed time as we would fly WEST (one hour back). The sun rises at 5 AM pretty much year round in Recife! Never had that before! It was raining hard and the luggage handlers seemingly had a slow day - it took 45 minutes to bring (the many) bags out. But were able to see the baggage handler move the bags with the cool video installation.
Recife airport taxis are very nice - no haggling. There are metered taxis everywhere that have no additional charge just because they started a ride from the airport.