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World Cup Dilemma: Where to park your Private Jet

12 June 2014

Private Aviation Companies Snapped Up More Than 5,200 Airport Parking Slots in 24 hours.

A day after the Brazilan government began taking reservations for jet landings at the soccer tournament's host cities, few are left after private aviation companies snapped up more than 5,200 slots in 24 hours, the Aviation Ministry said last week.

However, jet parking in the cities where the most popular matches will be played —such as the later stages and those involving Brazil—are sold out, and authorities are scrambling to find runways and hangars to accommodate the thousands of private jets expected to fly in for the month long tournament.

"We are now looking for more options for parking space to handle the demand," Aviation Minister Wellington Moreira Franco said.

In São Paulo, corporate-jet parking at the three main airports serving the city is already full for the June 12 opener between Brazil and Croatia. Ditto in Rio de Janeiro for the July 13 final there. The government is already diverting executive jets to park at neighboring airports, whose spaces are also filling fast. Corporate titans who haven't yet booked may be forced to park at distant airports and face long overland trips to their matches.

"They'll get to Brazil, but they won't be able to land close," said Eduardo Vaz, CEO of Líder Aviação, Brazil's top business aviation firm. "They'll have to use airports that are farther away."

Brazil has struggled to improve airports and modernize its air-traffic control system in time for the World Cup. Visitors flying into the northeastern city of Fortaleza, for example, will be ushered through a makeshift canvas terminal because the permanent structure won't be ready in time.

But the government has made particular efforts to accommodate executive fliers, some of whom may be sizing up Brazil as a potential place to invest. Nationwide, Brazil has more than doubled the number of spaces where commercial airliners and private jets can park during the tournament, to nearly 3,000 from 1,300.

While handling the deluge of corporate jets will be a challenge, Brazil has some unique strengths. The nation, which is about the size of the continental U.S., has been slow to build highways to remote areas. To compensate, it has developed a thriving private aviation network to connect its far-flung cities.

The Brazilian government plans to use 90 airports to receive business jets, including 16 military bases, according to the Civil Aviation Secretary.

Brazil's fleet of nearly 1,600 business jets is second only to that of the U.S.

But even some of Brazil's biggest boosters are worried about aerial gridlock during the cup. The country's most famous soccer player, Pelé, returned last month from a trip abroad and pronounced Brazil's air-travel infrastructure to be "chaotic."

"Unfortunately this was not well organized," he told reporters. "We have an opportunity to grow. But things are not ready."