World Cup Planning: Don’t Get Soccer-punched

 - May 6, 2014, 1:10 AM

The World Cup, the world’s largest sporting event, is set to kick off next month, and more than half a million fervent soccer fans are poised to descend on host country Brazil. Of that total, 11 percent are expected to arrive on business aircraft, and estimates call for approximately 3,000 business aircraft to be operating in the country during the month-long tournament, which begins on June 12. Such numbers will place a heavy strain on Brazil’s aviation services. “Many of the airports in the country are already overcrowded, so adding more general aviation aircraft to the mix will not help the situation,” said a spokesman from World Fuel Services’ BaseOps global flight support division. “To counter this, some military bases are being used for VIP travel.”

With the matches spread out around Brazil, airports in the host cities will be subject to a slot system for the duration of the tournament. “Slots might be required at secondary airports where they are currently not required, and that will depend primarily on the number of requests the airport gets,” said Christine Vamvakas, operations communications manager with Universal Weather & Aviation. “The biggest thing is to make sure that operators are submitting their requests now.”

She added that some aircraft operators might not be aware of the proper documentation required to get permits processed ahead of the May 15 opening of the online slot request window. “To request your slots you have to have your landing permits, because the actual confirmation needs to be placed on the online form. Without that, you’re losing the opportunity to be able to request slots immediately they become available.”

With the influx of general aviation traffic, slots and aircraft parking will be at a premium, especially in major cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the site of the World Cup finals. “You might not get the slots or parking you want and that might require you to either alter your schedule or park overnight at alternate airports,” said Vamvakis, adding that as of the middle of last month many of her company’s clients had had their requests on file for a number of weeks.

Universal noted that it is seeing a large number of requests from North American and Latin American operators interested in World Cup travel, the bulk centered around the finals. The volume of this intended travel suggests that operators should expect snags in their plans. “All of the major airports [near] where the games are being played are almost certain to have delays,” noted the BaseOps spokesman. “These can especially be expected at the more heavily traveled destinations like Rio and São Paulo, where airlines will almost always get preference, so be prepared.”

Another matter requiring urgent attention for those considering attending the event is finding accommodations. “Hotels are going to be at a premium,” said the BaseOps’ spokesman. First, there aren’t as many as there need to be. Second, it will probably be a lot like the Sochi Olympics…frantically trying to build new ones, and who knows if they will be completed in time for the event.” When booking their rooms, visitors will doubtless experience sticker shock on the prices, with enforced minimum stays and restrictive cancellation policies.

Likewise, given the expected demand, ground transportation could prove problematic, and Universal is urging its clients to schedule additional travel time to reach events on time to account for the congestion anticipated around the various venues.