Rio de Janeiro is served by two major airports, and Antonio Carlos Jobim/Galeão International Airport (GIG) and Santos Dumont Airport (SDU). GIG is an international airport, whereas SDU is for domestic traffic only.
Like most tourists, I have only used GIG airport myself. In this article, I have written a detailed review/guide for GIG and have provided basic information about SDU.
Galeão International Airport (GIG)
Antonio Carlos Jobim/Galeão International Airport is Brazil’s second busiest international airport, welcoming more than 15 million passengers in 2018. It has two terminals numbered 1 and 2, which are connected. Check-in for all airlines occurs at terminal 2, and there is signage throughout the departures hall.
I have compiled a list of airlines serving GIG airport for you here. Please check with your airline for the most up-to-date information on gate assignments.
Aerolineas Argentinas, Air France, Alitalia, Amaszonas, American Airlines, Avianca, Avianca Peru, Azul Brazilian Airlines, British Airways, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Edelweiss Air, Emirates, Flybondi, GOL Airlines, Iberia, KLM, LATAM Brasil, LATAM Chile, LATAM Paraguay, LATAM Peru, Level, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air UK, Paranair, Royal Air Maroc, Sky Airline, TAP Air Portugal, United Airlines
Disability assistance services should be requested prior to travel and through your airline. Consult this list of wheelchair assistance contacts at major airlines. If you are traveling with a personal wheelchair, it is possible to gate-check the device, whether it is manual or powered.
Boarding is almost always via jet bridge, but deplaning from an international arrival may be done using an AmbuLift. The AmbuLift vehicle can speed up the passenger’s journey to immigration and customs, in addition to reconnecting them with any gate-checked mobility equipment.
On each of my arrivals and departures from GIG airport, my wheelchair was returned/handed over at the door of the aircraft, in a jet bridge. In every case, this is indeed possible.
Accessible Facilities at GIG
Private accessible bathrooms for use by people with disabilities and their carer are available in each of the airport terminals. Some photos are provided below.
The accessible bathrooms have a toilet with grab bars. Some of the accessible bathrooms also have an adult changing table with grab bars.
A service animal/pet relief area is available across from the Star Alliance Lounge on the upper level of terminal 2.
More information on the airport and its facilities is available at the Ezeiza Airport website.
Departure Lounges at GIG
The airport has the following six lounges inside security, all of which are located in Terminal 2:
- American Airlines Admirals Club (International)
- GOL Premium Lounge (Domestic)
- GOL Premium Lounge (International)
- Plaza Premium Lounge (Domestic)
- Plaza Premium Lounge (International)
- Star Alliance Lounge (International)
I departed from Rio de Janeiro on American Airlines, and had access to the American Airlines Admirals Club because I was traveling in business class. The lounge was small, with limited choices for accessible seating. The spread of food and drinks was acceptable, including some decent red wines.
The Admirals Club had a nice wheelchair accessible roll-in shower with a built-in shower seat, grab bars, and a handheld showerhead. I used the facilities to freshen up before both of my flights. The accessible shower suites also feature a fixed-height adult changing table.
Accessible transportation to/from GIG Airport
Once you have made your way through passport control, baggage claim and customs, you’ll be deposited into the arrivals hall. From there, I ordered a wheelchair taxi and waited about 45 minutes for it to arrive. Many people will approach asking if you need a taxi, but there are no wheelchair accessible taxis at the airport. You must order one directly.
There are buses/motor coaches that go from GIG Airport to downtown, and they are advertised as being wheelchair accessible, but I have not personally ridden one.
Santos Dumont Airport (SDU)
Santos Dumont Airport, located right alongside downtown Rio de Janeiro, welcomed more than 9 million passengers in 2018. It handles the majority of domestic air traffic to/from Rio de Janeiro, and is served by the following airlines:
Azul Brazilian Airlines, GOL Airlines, LATAM LATAM Brasil, VoePass
As I have not used this airport, I cannot comment on its accessibility, but you may find more information via the Santo Dumont Airport website.
Accessible transportation to/from Santos Dumont Airport
The airport is directly served by tram lines 1 and 3. Taking these, you will be able to connect to other routes (and to the metro) that reach all parts of the city.
Have you used any of the airports in Rio de Janeiro?
Let others know about airport accessibility in the comments!