On every continent, it is probably safe to say, there are people who are either already certain that they are going to be flying to Brazil for the football World Cup, or who are giving it serious consideration. What they probably do not know, and should acquaint themselves with as fast as possible, is that flying to the games by private jet, whether it is their own or a chartered jet, is only going to be possible for those who start planning right now.
The magic date for private flights to the World Cup is May 15th. On this date the Brazilian authorities are committed to announcing just how many slots there will be available in total in the run up to, and through the period of the World Cup. For those who are foggy on the actual dates of the World Cup, it begins on 12 June and ends on 13 July.
Operators everywhere have been chafing for weeks at what they saw as foot-dragging and unnecessary delays on the part of the Brazilian authorities in announcing how many slots would be available, and what the breakdown would be by airport. So the announcement of a specific day when all will be revealed has been widely welcomed. However, one thing that is already clear, is that vacant slots are going to sell like hotcakes. Competition for those slots is going to be as fierce as the football matches themselves.
Cynthia de Oliveira, Operations Director at Lider Aviação, the largest FBO operator in Brazil with an FBO at every one of the 12 host city airports, points out that the Brazilian authorities have said that only 10% of the available slots will be designated for general aviation. “Another 10% of the slots will be allocated to jets bringing in the sponsor companies, the football teams and FIFA officials,” she comments. “We expect all the available slots to be claimed really quickly, in a matter of days. It is already clear that demand is going to outstrip the available slots by a substantial margin,” she adds.
Lider will be dealing with both VIP jets coming in loaded with FIFA officials and corporate sponsors, and with everyone who is using private aviation to fly in to Brazil from umpteen possible international departure points. EVA asked Cynthia if Lider was prepared for what is bound to be one of the most hectic six week periods the company has ever seen.
“We’ve been planning for this for a long time, and from January this year our planning group has been meeting weekly on planning issues and procedures. But we have really benefited from two ‘practice runs’, which gave us a very good feel for what we should expect,” she says. The practice runs in question were the Confederations Cup, and the Rio +20. The latter refers to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which took place in Rio de Janeiro on 20–22 June 2012, while the former refers to the FIFA Confederations Cup which was played in Brazil in June and July 2013.
The Confederations Cup is an eight team international tournament held every year, featuring the six reigning champions from the six FIFA confederations, plus a team from the host nation and the current holders of the World Cup. Since 1997 the tournament has been seen as a dress rehearsal for the country hosting the next World Cup, so FBOs in the host country get an excellent practice run at coping with an influx of private jet customers. Although the Confederations Cup is only a pale shadow of the World Cup, and generates only a fraction of the excitement that attends football’s premier event, Cynthia reckons that it still gave rise to a surprisingly large number of aircraft movements. In all Lider dealt with some 15000 aircraft movements during the course of the tournament.
“We learned a great deal from these two events and we are putting the lessons to good use in our planning for the World Cup,” she says. “I’ve been trying to catch up on my sleep now because I don’t expect to be getting much through the competition,” she says, only half joking!
Lider has produced two books to help those interested in using private aviation to get to the various matches. The first provides some interesting insights into the various host cities and the football stadiums that will be hosting the matches. The second, “Flavours of the World Cup,” introduces the visitor to Brazil to the favourite regional recipes of each of the host cities. Lider has also created a special web site where visitors can click on a map showing the host cities, to get information on each of the cities and the stadiums.
The company has also produced a Planning Guide to the World Cup which it distributed at the IOC Operator’s conference in March this year. “The guide was extremely well received at the conference,” Cynthia says. “We had our Chief Pilot giving a presentation at the conference on the regulations and documentation that Brazil expects from private jets coming into the country and that presentation was extremely well attended,” she notes.
Cynthia is confident not only that Lider will perform well for its clients but also that the whole event will be a huge success. “We have some infrastructure problems but we love football and we love visitors here in Brazil, so I am very confident that this will turn out to be a remarkable World Cup. My message to everyone though is plan early and arrive in plenty of time for each of the matches – which means at least a day or two in advance.”
Hotel accommodation is limited in many of the host cities, so rooms are going to be almost as fiercely contested for as flight slots. The message really is book now if you haven’t already booked.