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April 11, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Road To Rio

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Since the Rio tourism board had invited me down, I had a business class ticket on TAM. TAM stands for "Transportes Aereos Meridionais" and has been around since 1961. The airline gained popularity and more international routes when Brazil's national carrier, Varig, started experiencing serious financial problems (which they still are). I really had no idea what to expect from TAM since I've never flown with them or even read anything about Brazil's largest airline. Check-in for both the business and economy class lines was quick. That surprised me because you should've seen the amount of luggage and the size of bags that people were checking. The guy in front of me even had a 63-inch plasma TV. The agent said it's always like this because electronic goods in Brazil are really expensive. So, to save money, many Brazilians fly to the U.S. to shop. Talk about a long trip to the mall! The check-in agent was nice and after she handed me my boarding card and pass to the business class lounge, she warned me to be careful in Rio.

The lounge TAM uses is run by British Airways and was brilliant. It had high ceilings, wall-to-wall windows and a beach theme. It was cheerful with colorful and comfortable lounge chairs, drinks and snacks. What else could a business traveler ask for? Okay, they could've had some showers and maybe even free wireless.

It turned out that the agent who checked me in was the same one collecting tickets at the gate. Surprisingly, she remembered my name and after she put my card through the ticket reader she wished me a nice flight and again warned me to be careful in Rio. Gulp! I was hearing this a lot from family and friends and it didn't make me feel very comfortable (more on this next week). However, the cheerful pilot and a flight attendant (FA) were standing outside the door of the A330 plane greeting passengers, which eased my nerves. You don't see this every day and I thought that it was a good sign of a pleasant flight.

I quickly found out that TAM's service was outstanding. The FAs were all friendly and attentive. They came around with pre-take off drinks, then later with hot towels, more drinks and tasty food. The flight was scheduled for an 11:15 am departure but we left the gate a few minutes early and would you believe that we actually took off at 11:16am?! How unusual is that? The flight time to Sao Paulo was an easy seven hours and 50 minutes.

The business class seats had plenty of leg room, reclined to an almost completely flat position, were equipped with individual entertainment systems providing six movie channels, 11 audio channels, and the air show (map). After a tasty five-course dinner (salad, ginger and carrot cream soup, filet mignon, an assortment of cheese, and either fresh fruit, cheesecake or ice cream for dessert), they shut all the window shades, handed passengers a bottle of water and that was that. Why people would want to sleep on a day flight is beyond me but most passengers did. The only thing I could find wrong (besides the TV screen being small) was that the flight attendants didn't come around again for three hours until they served breakfast (omelet or waffles, fruit and apple pie). Why they would serve breakfast at 7pm local time is again, beyond me. I think they should've flipped the courses around.

Since business class was half-empty, everyone had an open seat next to them. The guy sitting across the aisle from me would not stop tapping his wedding ring on his personal handset. It was driving me batty – even when I put my earplugs in. The cabin was pitch dark and Mr. Annoying in 5H couldn't see my dirty looks and just wouldn't stop. When I couldn't take it any longer, I grabbed the snake light attached to my seat and pointed it at his face like he was a criminal. He had a deer-in-headlights expression on his face and when I quickly shone the light on his ring finger and then back up to his face … he stopped. It worked and despite the minor annoyances, overall the TAM flight lived up to its slogan; The Magic Red Carpet.

We arrived in Sao Paulo on time and I had an hour and a half layover. It was a bit confusing because I've never landed in a country and not gone through passport control even when I was connecting. In Sao Paulo, all connecting passengers had to do was go through very weak secondary security. I didn't have to take anything out of my bag or remove my jacket or shoes. The good news is that there was no lineup. The flight to Rio was on a different A330 plane and I was the only one in my section of business class. The plane and crew were traveling on to Paris and I found out that all the passengers were either connecting to or from international flights and that's why I didn't go through customs. Note: Sao Paulo and Rio both have a separate domestic airport for inter-Brazil flights. Flight time from Sao Paulo to Rio was just 40 minutes. But how bizarre is this: the seatbelt sign never went off even though it was a smooth ride, the lights in the cabin weren't turned on and the FAs never walked by.

I was one of the first passengers off the plane and the first to clear customs, which seemed to take all of 30 seconds. The arrival area looked old, was dimly lit with fluorescent bulbs and had a bit of a depressing feeling about it. However, I was feeling quite the opposite, as I was excited to be in a city I have always dreamt of visiting. I was ready to explore!

Sorry! No video this week, but here's a link to all the Johnny Jet Videos ever made. If you're on MySpace or Linked In here are my pages.

Rio de Janeiro. Stay tuned!

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Happy Travels,
Johnny Jet

*PLEASE tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Note: This trip was sponsored by Ocean Properties and the Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Business Class Ticket


Smooth Check-In


BA Lounge


Flight To Sao Paulo


Boarding TAM




Champagne Anyone?


Five-Course Meal


The Magic Red Carpet


Empty Biz Class


About To Arrive in Rio!



  • Nice job on Curacao! I'll definitely refer back to your newsletter. I recently got back from Panama/Panama Canal and the Gamboa Rainforest Resort is amazing! Check it out if you haven't already. You will absolutely love it. Kathy H – Orlando, FL

  • Love it! Debbie H – New York City

  • Great Curacao story. You did an absolutely amazing job with it. I loved all the pictures and links to everything. Ed W. – San Francisco, CA

  • You wouldn't believe what a relief it was to hear the ‘No Tipping' when we arrived in New Zealand, having spent 3 months in the States. 15-20% in America is a joke. The ‘have a nice day' is so false, the service very average and all-in-all the tipping spoilt the trip. We flew from LA to Auckland where the people were very genuine, the service 1st class and they didn't expect a huge tip for doing their job properly. We loved the States, but with the exchange rate (at the time) of $1.4 to £1, the cost of ‘expected' tips ruined our budget – what's going wrong??? Love the Website, so do our friends!!! Good health. Paul B – United Kingdom

  • Curacao is not a nation but part of the Netherlands. Howard B - REPLY: Thanks for the correction. Curacao is not a country yet but it is expected to become one by December 2008.

  • Thank you for taking the time to respond to my email. I truly believe that you are sincere and do your best to give readers an honest perspective. I will continue to welcome your weekly newsletter into my email box. I still wish, however, that you would try to offer trip reviews on hotels, etc., that cater more to the average traveler. Keep up the good work. Debbie

  • I spent some time perusing your site yesterday and I gotta say, I'm very impressed. I can see why you get lots of traffic -- great work. Clark N – New York

  • WOW! How cool was that! Really super Johnny! Awesome video you made... Nice to see you really went 'local'... even jumping off the cliffs and trying the iguana soup!!! Brave Soul! Heidi – Curacao

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