Airports in South America

Arturo Merino Benitez

Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, commonly referred to as Santiago International Airport (SCL), is situated in Pudahuel, approximately 9.3 miles (15km) northwest of downtown Santiago, Chile. Having served about 11 million passengers in 2010, it is the country’s busiest aerial hub and Latin America’s ninth-busiest airport.

Santiago International has one terminal building with four levels. Arrivals, baggage claims and customs are located on the ground level, while the first level houses a number of VIP lounges. Departures and check-in are on second level and the third level forms the dining area.

Owing to damage caused by the earthquake in 2010 and the increasing number of travelers visiting the airport each year, services and facilities are not as efficient as they once were. However, a new master plan, set to include the construction of detached terminal buildings and a light railway line connecting to the Santiago Metro railway network, will see a significant improvement in operations on all levels in the near future.

Flights to Santiago International Airport come from cities all around the world, but the busiest routes are to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Lima, Madrid, Miami, Panama City, Montevideo, Mexico City and Paris.

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Brasilia International

Brasilia International Airport, known officially by the rather long-winded name Brasilia-Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport (BSB), serves the capital city of Brasilia in central Brazil. Located seven miles (11km) outside the city, the airport is the main hub for the interior of Brazil and processes more than 14 million passengers each year.

Acting as more of a regional hub than an international destination, flights to Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport come mostly from other Brazilian and South American cities, with a few connections from North America (Atlanta and Miami) and Europe (Lisbon).

Known as one of the best airports in Brazil, the facility has a reputation for cleanliness and efficiency. Bonus offerings like movie theaters and gardens add to the attractions, although you’re unlikely to spend time here on a stopover unless you’re connecting from one of the smaller Brazilian airports. The only major complaints are a lack of transport options into the city.

Like all Brazilian airports however, the facilities are in the midst of an upgrade ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A new second terminal has already been added.

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Dois de Julho

Salvador-Deputado Luis Eduardo Magalhaes International Airport (SSA) The airport is located 28km (17 miles) north of Salvador da Bahia. 

To/from the airport: Buses and taxis are available. 

Facilities: ATMs, left-luggage facility and airport lockers, VIP lounge, Nursery and medical facilities.

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Ezeiza/Ministro Pistarini

As the primary gateway into Argentina, Ezeiza Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE) sees more than 8.5 million passengers per year. It's 14 miles (22km) southwest of Buenos Aires, and is often referred to as Ezeiza International Airport after the suburb in which it's located.

Terminal A handles international departures and arrivals, Terminal B is used exclusively by Aerolineas Argentinas, and Terminal C is for international departures and domestic arrivals and departures. There are no train stations, but it's easy enough to get into the city by bus or taxi.

At the airport you can enjoy authentic Argentine cuisine or explore the large duty-free market place before relaxing in a spa or VIP lounge. Otherwise, you can always venture into the city. As the third-largest city in South America, Buenos Aires has lots to see and do. Depending on when you're there, you might catch one of the fantastic festivals such as the Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente, the Buenos Aires Tango Festival, the South American Music Conference or La Rural.

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Galeao International

Rio de Janeiro-Galeao International Airport, better known as Galeao International Airport (GIG), is one of the busiest airports in Brazil. Galeao is Portuguese for galleon, and the airport is named for Galleon Beach, where the majestic ship Padre Eterno was built in 1663.

Located 13 miles (20km) from central Rio de Janeiro, the airport is a favorite gateway for travelers looking to soak up the sun on Copacabana Beach or party the night away during Carnival. Its proximity to such a major international tourism destination means you can find flights to Galeao International Airport from all over the world, including local connections from Salvador da Bahia, Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Vitora; and international ones from most major European and North American cities including London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York and Washington DC.

With the addition of the second terminal in 1999, the airport increased its capacity to 7.5 million passengers annually, though it is currently handling more than 12 million each year. This adds up to long queues for everything from security to coffee, and a lack of seating in the departure lounges. However, the airport is currently beefing up its terminals and infrastructure in a big way ahead of Rio de Janeiro hosting the World Cup in 2014.

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Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU), officially called Governador Andre Franco Montoro International Airport, is Sao Paulo’s main international gateway. Located about 18 miles (25km) northeast of Sao Paulo, it is Brazil’s busiest airport, serving almost 27 million passengers in 2010. However, the airport was also rated as having the third-highest number of flight delays among major international airports, with 25 percent of all flights experiencing delays greater than 15 minutes.

Fortunately, these frustrations should soon come to an end as the airport is undergoing extensive development in order to prepare for Brazil’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Plans include the construction of a third runway and a third terminal, as well as an express railway line linking Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International to the city center.

Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport is work in progress. Queues and delays are common and the terminals are in dire need of a makeover. Rest assured, though; 2014 will see the airport rising up to meet international airport standards.

Flights to Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport come from destinations around the world, including Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Toronto, Beijing, Paris, Dubai, Los Angeles, Johannesburg and New York.  

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Jorge Chavez International

Located 7 miles (11km) from Lima’s city center, Jorge Chavez International is Peru’s main international and domestic air hub. In 2010 it handled just over 10 million passengers. Flights to Jorge Chavez International Airport arrive from cities across North and South America, Canada and Europe.

Recent expansions and renovations of the main terminal building have improved standards throughout all operations. Facilities are clean and modern and staff are friendly and organized. Having received an award for being the “Best Airport in South America” in 2011 at the World Airport Awards, Jorge Chavez International is also home to the Sumaq VIP lounge which was labeled  “Lounge of the Year” two years in a row.

A mere 15-minute journey to the historic city center of Lima makes Jorge Chavez a popular gateway for tourists wishing to explore the wonders of the country’s capital and beyond, while good shopping options ensure that they don’t leave empty-handed.

View Jorge Chavez International (LIM) Airport Guide

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Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetia (CCS), or more simply, Caracas Maiquetia International Airport, is an important transport hub, seeing nearly 9 million annual visitors, and connecting Venezuela with the rest of the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East.

The subject of continuous upgrades and improvements since 2000, Maiquetia International Airport can still be a challenging place to negotiate, especially for rookie travelers. Venezuela gets a lot of bad press, most of which is undeserved – yet precautions should be taken to ensure that you remain safe, and that you bring back only good memories from your time abroad.

Due to its location at nearly the mid-point of the Americas, flights to and from Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetia are provided by a vast number of airlines, offering connections to some truly interesting and exotic destinations.

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Mariscal Sucre

Located in the northern part of Quito, five minutes’ drive from the city center, Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) is a busy airport serving as the main hub for flights to Ecuador. Generally referred to as Quito Mariscal Airport, the facility processes nearly 4 million passengers each year. Services are basic but well-maintained, and the staff is both friendly and efficient.

Most flights to Mariscal Sucre International Airport are from other cities in South and Central America (Bogota, Panama City, Caracas, Lima, Medellin, San Jose de Costa Rica and Manta), but there are long-haul flights available from a few major cities such as New York, Miami, Houston, Atlanta, Madrid and Amsterdam.

Due to its location in Quito, the airport cannot expand to accommodate the increasing demand for flights to Ecuador and a second facility is currently being built 11 miles (17.7km) outside the city. In the meantime, however, being inside the city limits means a cheap and easy trip to your destination.

View Mariscal Sucre (UIO) Airport Guide

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