It's one damn thing after another in Brazil.
For two months now, Brazilian air traffic has been a mess, partly because of continuing breakdowns in technology but mostly because of air traffic controllers' widespread work-to-rule protests. The protests, of course, stem from the Sept. 29 mid-air collision between a Brazilian Gol 737 and an American business jet, in which all 154 on the 737 tragically died.
The controllers are protesting, and showing what they can do to the system if pushed, because they fear Brazilian authorities might blame air traffic control for the crash. Air traffic control had the two planes flying at 37,000 feet on a collision course over the Amazon, but so far the only blame that has been cast has been on the two American pilots, who were flying where they were told to fly by controllers who have already been shown to have been inattentive at best.
Now a new monkey wrench has been thrown into Brazil's hobbled air traffic. From good old Brazzil.com on Friday:
"To End Chaos Brazil Airport Authority Forbids Sale of Tickets
Written by José Wilson Miranda
Friday, 22 December 2006
In an attempt to control the chaotic situation in the airports, the Brazilian airport authority, the ANAC (National Agency of Civil Aviation) has forbidden TAM, Brazil's largest airline, to sell any ticket before it embarks all passengers already holding a pass. ...
Milton Zuanazzi, ANAC's president, [said] that his agency will be more careful in order to prevent the airline company from continuing to sell tickets in already overloaded routes. ... The cause of trouble in the airports has been identified: six TAM's airplanes are in maintenance and the airline isn't managing to carry its passengers in a timely manner. This in turn has brought chaos to the airports with passengers having to wait as much as 12 hours to get on a plane.
People trying to buy a ticket from TAM this Friday are getting the following message: "no available flights for this date and period or all the flights are sold out." The company's site on the Internet was down for a short period earlier today.
Flight delays once again forced people to spend the night and the early morning in São Paulo and Rio airports. The military police continued for a second day to maintain the security at the Tom Jobim international airport in Rio. They were called Thursday after angry passengers broke a TAM's computer and one of the company's counter. ...
Despite ANAC's prohibition TAM didn't stop selling tickets, however. A reporter from the site G1 called the company to reserve a flight for this Friday from Congonhas to the Tom Jobim airport, the two airports where the situation is the worst.
The TAM employee only asked for the caller's credit card number and alerted him that the flight might have a two-hour delay. ..."
[MY NOTE: Curiously enough, the Brazzil.com web site on which this article appeared was at the same time running an ad from TAM: "Special airfares. Call in Now!"]
And from Brazzil.com on Thursday:
"On the eve of Christmas, Brazil's main airports have once again become a battleground of discontent, tumult, long lines, hours of delay and, at times, total chaos.
In Rio's Tom Jobim International Airport the military police brought armed agents after people threatened to break the airport's installations. In Brasília a group of disgruntled passengers invaded the runway.
The Brazilian Air Force, which is in charge of air flight control in the country, tells that trouble started due to a heavy rain in the southeast region of the country, where are São Paulo and Rio are located.
The problem got worse, said the Air Force, when TAM, Brazil's largest airline, suffered a failure in its computers preventing passengers from checking in. The company, however, denied having any computer glitch. ...
At the Juscelino Kubitschek's International Airport, in Brasília, flights were being delayed up to four hours this morning. The situation became tense when a group of disgruntled passengers invaded the airport's runway and despite the heavy rain sat down on the air strip until they were forcefully removed by the airport's security. ...
ANAC released a note apologizing for the delays. The agency informed that the problem this time wasn't the fault of flight controllers but the airlines. ..."