Flight Belo Horizonte (MG) – Maceió (AL)
Destination Maceió, second travel to the capital of the state of Alagoas.
Episode 1. The flight from Belo Horizonte to Maceió. With a video fragment of the take-off.
One week ago, one of my Dutch friends, Richard, had arrived from Holland for his first visit in Brazil. But already before his arrival, I had provided information to Richard about what to see and what to do in Brazil. It was his intention to spend most of the time in Belo Horizonte and the surrounding historical cities, and eventually a long trip to another part of the immense country. The first week was spent in Belo Horizonte. In that week, we visited a travel agency, which was indicated by a good friend of mine. He had had good experiences with that agency. We visited this agency on a Saturday, and we were informed about the various offers for the month of August. However, most of these offers only started at the end of August, for most popular destinations in Northeast Brazil: Fortaleza, Natal, João Pessoa, Recife, Maceió, Aracaju, and Salvador. All these capitals have countless possibilities for a joyous stay. I already had visited Fortaleza, Recife, Maceió, and Salvador before. But there was an interesting offer for a travel to Maceió, capital of the tiny state of Alagoas. A flight-accommodation combination for less than 900 reais, about 350 euros. Eight days, seven nights. We booked this travel, and a few days later, we returned to the agency, to obtain the travel documents.
The flight to Maceió was scheduled from Confins, the international airport of Belo Horizonte. This international airport is no match for the much larger Amsterdam Airport, were you may observe planes from every corner of the world. The international flights arrive from Argentina, the United States, Portugal, Panama, and Aruba. But there are more domestic connections, without or with one or more transfers. Undoubtedly, the locations with most frequent flights are Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, both reachable within an hour flight distance. Confins is the trivial name for Aeroporto Internacional de Belo Horizonte – Tancredo Neves. The airport is named after the first elected civil president after the dictatorship, who died shortly before his installation. Ironically, it was Tancredo who was opposed against the construction of the new airport on this location. Confins is located at about 38 km north of Belo Horizonte, in a district where many archeological discoveries have been registered. The remains of the oldest man on the American continent were found here. Confins was inaugurated in 2002, but only in 2005 it became the principal airport of Belo Horizonte, when 120 flights were taken over from the urban airport, Pampulha. In 2008, there were more than five million passengers. Confins will be expanded, in order to be ready for the arrival of soccer fans during the FIFA World Cup in 2014.
Webjet and CVC
Our flight was with Webjet, a Brazilian airline company. who entered the Brazilian market in 2005, as a price discounter. However, less than six months later, thanks to fierce competition of the established airlines (TAM, GOL and Varig), it had to give up that strategy. The company was restarted shortly after, and since 2007 Webjet is part of the Brazilian tourism holding CVC (acronym of the names of the founders), who claims to have a sixty percent share of the Brazilian market. Thanks to this acquisition, CVC now controls its own flights to the popular Brazilian destinations and is no longer dependent on the availability of other airline companies. Therefore, CVC is able to introduce attractive discount travels. Since the acquisition, the Webjet fleet expanded from two to sixteen planes that connect fifteen destinations. In addition, CVC also has strong joint ventures with various beach hotels in various cities, also in Maceió. Our hotel in Maceió was one of the three that has a joint venture with CVC.
Our flight to Maceió was scheduled at six pm. We left the hotel (where Richard was staying) in downtown Belo Horizonte at three pm. From the rodoviária (bus station), we took the shuttle bus to Confins. It was a so-called conventional bus without air conditioning, but the windows allowed air to circulate. This bus service is cheaper: seven reais instead of sixteen reais. The bus ride followed the so-called Linda-Verde, a modern highway that connects downtown Belo Horizonte with Confins. We arrived on time, enough time to check in. We were allowed to carry one suitcase and two pieces of hand luggage. After the check-in, we wandered along the various shops at the airport. It was very quiet, that Saturday afternoon. We took some coffee before we entered the checkpoint for hand luggage. For domestic flights, there were not many restrictions, except for weapons, knives, and scissors. But there were no restrictions for food and fluids.
Take-off at Confins
It was twenty to six, when we boarded the Boeing 737-300. Apparently, the interior was renovated recently. The plane became full, they were all passengers who had booked their CVC arrangement for Maceió. We were the only foreigners in the airplane. The plane took off on time. It was dusk in Belo Horizonte, we still could enjoy the final sun rays of a sunny Saturday. Not much later, we were flying comfortably high above the cloud deck. The flight would last two hours, much shorter in comparison to the bus travel that I had made last year: thirty-two hours! It is expected that with time airplanes will have fierce competition with buses, and that there will be many more flights in the future. During our flight, we received a ham/cheese sandwich and a piece of cake with soda or fruit juice. We landed in Maceió on schedule. The airport in Maceió was also new. This Aeroporto Internacional de Maceió – Zumbi dos Palmares, – is named after the leader of the escaped slaves, who had established a large quilombo (slave settlement) in Alagoas.
After our arrival, we were guided to a coach, which transported us to our hotel. The airport is located at 25 from the city, the bus ride took about half an hour. We did not feel tired after the short flight. During our bus ride, we met our local guide, a cheerful blabbermouth with a swift tongue. A few days later, he explained us that talking and selling is natural for him. He only stopped talking when we arrived at the hotels, we got tired of his torrent of stories and information. He talked about the state of Alagoas, the city of Maceió, about the touristic locations, and above all about the day trips that CVC was offering us. There would be an excursion every day, to various popular beaches. In one week time, we would have visited all principal beaches in the state of Alagoas. The rates of these excursions were not that expensive: between twenty and sixty reais, depending the distance. I selected two excursions for myself and for Richard, because I knew that it was not easy to reach these locations by public transportation. More about that in the following episodes.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom