Olympics could 'paralyze' Rio airport: airlines

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 22 2015 08:18 PM | Updated as of Aug 23 2015 04:18 AM

Planned closure of airspace over Rio's Guanabara Bay during sailing competitions at next year's Olympics would "paralyze" air travel and affect more than 150,000 passengers, airlines said Friday.

Currently, airliners on domestic routes fly low in over the bay past the dramatic Sugarloaf Mountain to Santos Dumont Airport, in the heart of Rio de Janeiro.

But airspace could be cleared for news helicopters for four and a half hours a day August 8-18, when the sailing regattas are held at the 2016 Summer Games, the Brazilian Airlines Association said.

The airport "could have its operations paralyzed," the ABEAR said in a statement.

"The flight ban would impact more than 150,000 passengers, based on an average of 104 canceled flights a day."

The group said a meeting was held Thursday to discuss industrial action during the Games if the airspace closure goes ahead.

"In addition to your direct flights there are the connections," said Ronaldo Jenkins, ABEAR director of flight operations.

"About 70 percent of flights going through Santos Dumont are connected with airports in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Vitoria."

Rio's main Tom Jobim International Airport would be unaffected by the Games and airlines are reportedly looking at rerouting there during the sailing.

However, the airlines said they had called on Olympic organizers to base filming of the sailing on Sugarloaf Mountain, or to time any helicopter flights in close coordination with scheduled airliner flights.

The government and Olympic Broadcast Service, which are responsible for deciding on how the news cameras will get access, were not immediately available for comment.

Agence France-Presse