Access to Sao Paulo for US Airways was part of the deal they struck to trade slots with Delta at LaGuardia and Washington’s National airport. Now US Airways has finally announced their intended schedule of service for the route. Starting on May 5, 2013 the carrier will offer daily service on their 767-200 aircraft.
|Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) – Sao Paulo-Guarulhos (GRU)
|Sao Paulo-Guarulhos (GRU) – Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
So, ummm, yeah…about those flight times.
The 4:30am arrival in Sao Paulo is just over an hour before the bus service into town starts up. Most days they’ll be vying with the TAM inbound from Madrid to see which is the first international arrival of the morning. That could be good in the form of shorter immigration and customs lines or it could be a mess with limited service available. The plane sits on the ground for a few hours at that point before turning around back to North America that same day. Most carriers fly both to and from Brazil as an overnight flight; US Airways is choosing to not leave a plane on the ground all day to make that happen. American Airlines and TAM both also have daytime flights but those two carriers offer both daytime and the overnight options (and more destinations at both ends).
And the 8:25am departure on the north-bound flight is mighty early. With the traffic in general and the distance from GRU to town that means a 5:30ish departure from the hotel in the morning to get going. Maybe 6am if you’re feeling a bit aggressive.
I can only assume that the 4:30am arrival time is dictated by the slot requirements. Otherwise there is nothing stopping the carrier from leaving an hour later and having a more reasonable arrival time in Brazil and better inbound connections in Charlotte. At least for the return it would seem that they need the aircraft to continue on to Europe at some point that same night, necessitating the earlier departure.
Unlike some previously announced longhaul routes US Airways is actually going to run this one it would seem. Perhaps not the best timed flights, but having the service at all is a pretty big step.
There have been a few stories today about the unveiling of the American Airlines 777-300ER cabin interior configuration. Most of them (including Ben’s) have been rather effusive, raving about the new Business and First class cabins. And, no doubt, the press photos of those look pretty nice.
But there is a third photo included in the press release, the shot of the economy cabin:
The good news is that the photo shows a pretty nice individual IFE screen, universal power plugs and a handset to control the IFE, meaning reduced likelihood of someone tapping on the back of your seat the whole flight. And those are all good things, but there’s one really big bad thing, too. The seating configuration appears to be incredibly tight. Based on this point of view it appears that the cabin will have a 3-4-3 configuration, bringing American in line with Emirates and Air France for offering one of the most cramped coach cabin configurations in modern aviation. The aisle actually looks ridiculously narrow, too, making me wonder if this is even a real shot of the cabin, but if it is that looks like a VERY uncomfortable coach experience.
Some back of the napkin math based on the size of the power ports and the representation of things in the image suggests that the seats are about 17" wide, maybe a tiny bit less. That’s quite a bit tighter than their current economy products, especially compared to their current long-haul configurations. And they’re articulating – or "slidey" – seats, which means the legroom gets worse when reclined. Ouch.
There was some suggestion that there is going to be a "Premium Economy" product rolled out as well, but no details on that in these photos or in the release. That leaves me a smidge skeptical. Adding that to match their oneworld alliance partners would make sense in many ways. It is also the fastest growing segment of seating in the industry. Then again, when starting from zero relatively recently, it is easy to make "fastest growing" show up. It would be a first for a US-based carrier, so it is worth keeping an eye on.
The premium cabins look quite nice. Matching Cathay Pacific for the business class seat is particularly nice. But most passengers are going to be stuck in those economy seats and it looks painful. I hope it is better than that makes it appear.
It also seems that American has decided in the past 8 weeks to shift the planes from the originally announced service to London, putting them on the Dallas-Sao Paulo route instead. That’s a pretty inefficient utilization plan for the newest, nicest, planes, so they must think they’re going to drive some serious premiums on the route. Good luck.
The São Paulo Cathedral, also known as the Catedral da Sé de São Paulo is the largest in South America. With a capacity of 8,000 people and towers rising 92 meters it is rather impressive in size. Plus it has the bonus of being stunningly beautiful, too.
Along side of the park leading up to the cathedral there were lots of folks shouting and preaching. The guy in the yellow shirt just behind the statue above was definitely towards the crazy end of the spectrum; sadly my lack of Portuguese knowledge precluded me from understanding much of what he said.
The stained glass windows are impressive, particularly in the afternoon as they cast beautiful rays of light down into the pews.
Looking up from the dead center of the area where the nave and the transept cross using a fisheye lens. One of my favorite views of any church.
The Cathedral is not particularly old; it was begun in 1913 and completed in 1967, replacing the previous structure that was constructed in the mid-18th century. The current cathedral was built to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Sao Paulo.
Like many of the other major landmarks of Sao Paulo, the Cathedral is a site not to be missed, particularly on a quick spin through town like the one I was on.
The Virada Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil offered up a tremendously broad range of performances. One of the most entertaining was the Mexican Wrestling matches that were staged. I certainly didn’t expect it but it turned in to a great way to pass an hour of time.
They were setting up the ring as I wandered past and, uncertain of exactly what was coming, I grabbed a ring-side space against the railing and waited for the show to start. Soon enough the crowd started to stir, chanting for their favorites. Out came the wrestlers, dressed in their uniforms/costumes and we were treated to quite the entertaining display.
Lest there is any doubt, the entire thing was scripted. It was clear as some of the moves missed and were repeated that these guys had worked out their script in advance, including who would win and lose each round. But that certainly didn’t take away from the entertainment. They were pretty impressive to watch as they lifted, flipped and tossed each other around the ring, all the while playing to the crowd and hamming it up.
There was plenty more going on all over town, and I was still delusional that I might be able to save my original itinerary, so it was time to move on. Next stop: The Mercado Municipal for some fantastic foodie scenes and a delicious lunch!
I thought I had planned well for my 12 hour visit to Sao Paulo, Brazil. I asked a good friend for tips on things to see, mapped out the bus timetable and generally was ready to take in the city as best I could in the short time I was there. I even thought that I had a few words of Portuguese under my belt to help figure things out. Needless to say, the plans fell apart nearly from the get-go. Fortunately the end result was still a ton of fun.
The first stop was supposed to be the cafe in the arrivals area of the airport for Chopp (the local, unpasteurized beer; pronounced shop-ee) and some snacks for breakfast. Apparently their taps were broken so no fresh jetlag fighting beer for me, though I did end up with some Pao do Quiejo (cheesey bread) and a beer anyways.
Then the bus service wasn’t actually going where I wanted to go. Due to language barriers I had a bit of trouble understanding why, though it was quickly revealed when I did finally make it downtown on another bus an hour later to a nearby Metro station. It turns out that Sao Paulo was in the midst of the Virada Festival, a weekend-long celebration of music and culture and the plaza I was headed had been closed down to all vehicles and filled with stages for the various performances.
Actually, much of downtown was filled with stages. There were dozens scattered around with everything from a Beatles cover band playing every album, in order, to a rave at the Se Cathedral Park. There were street performers and roving drum corps and many, many other forms of entertainment. Including Mexican wrestling.
All of the street performers were entertaining. Having the city streets blocked off and filled with hundreds of thousands of Paulistas and other folks in for the festivities made it that much more enjoyable.
After taking in a couple performances I headed over to the Mercado Municipal for lunch and more beer. The market is gem in center of town and well worth the visit. Even if you aren’t hungry when you go in you will be by the time you walk amongst its stalls and navigate its merchants, offering everything from fresh produce to dried salt cod to meats and cheeses. All of it looked delicious and the bits I tried absolutely were.
The next stop on my whirlwind itinerary was the Se Cathedral. You can read more about it here but suffice it to say that, like most cathedrals, it was pretty impressive. So was the party going on in the park outside; the contact high I got walking through the crowd was particularly refreshing.
I also wanted to visit MASP, the art museum, but by this point I was running out of energy in a hurry and also having trouble navigating the Metro system to figure out how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be with minimal transfers. Alas, I conceded defeat and chose to head back to the airport an hour earlier than I’d originally planned. That said, the Metro station at the Cathedral was a work of art unto itself. Truly beautiful inside, especially with the passengers streaming to and fro.
I didn’t get to see everything I’d originally planned, but I also managed to discover several bits that I never could have imagined I’d experience thanks to the festival and just wandering around town a bit. Sure, I like to plan and know what I’m getting myself into but, once again, having a bit of flexibility and rolling with the punches proved to be the best approach to experiencing the city.