Since the signing of a concession agreement to take over the management of GRU Airport – São Paulo International Airport four years ago, the facility has undergone a transformation to become one of the largest airports in the world – with a modernisation project and a shift in strategic focus helping to drive improvements in all areas of operation.

The signing of the concession agreement for São Paulo’s GRU Airport in June 2012 marked the beginning of an intense transformation process of the largest airport in South America. In just three years under the new management, despite the tough economic and social environment in Brazil, the airport grew from 30 million to 39 million passengers a year and increased its international cargo market share from 33 to 41%, making it the most resilient airport in the country.

Located at the base of one of the most populated and wealthy regions in Brazil, GRU Airport is the main hub for TAM, GOL and Avianca, as well as one of the most important airports for Azul. The airport, therefore, is not only the gateway for Brazil, handling more than 60% of all international passengers to the country, but also the main hub linking South America to the rest of the world.

Currently, under challenging economic situation in Brazil, GRU Airport is the facility that airlines trust to consolidate their operations, making extensive use of an unparalleled network throughout the continent, the business-driven demand of São Paulo, and the top-class facilities for transfer and domestic passengers.

The making of a modern project

In order to streamline passenger flow and increase capacity, GRU Airport invested in next-generation equipment, such as e-gates for inspection of Brazilian passports, access control for boarding areas, self-service check-in kiosks and a fully automated baggage-sorting system capable of handling 5,000 items an hour. Two new aircraft aprons have been built and another one remodelled over the past three years, increasing the airport’s capacity from 79 to 123 stands.

At the moment, the main terminal, Terminal 2, which handles more than 25 million passengers a year, is undergoing a retrofit project that will increase the overall airport capacity to 48 million passengers a year and improve the transfer process, a much needed development for a hub airport.

The project includes a centralised security area for domestic and international passengers, and the modernisation of key parts of the terminal, such as check-in, baggage claim, and arrival and departure areas. This will add 23,000m2 of operational space designed to simplify and speed up the transfer process for passengers and baggage.

Last but not least, the number of available slots per hour grew from 47 to 52, giving the chance for better-connecting banks and schedule adjustments – essential aspects for the airlines – and the airport obtained Code F aircraft certification, meaning it can handle the largest aircraft in the world, such as the Airbus A380.

At the front for cargo

Since taking over the airport’s management, GRU Airport outlined an investment plan for the cargo terminal, given the importance of this segment for the airlines and importers/exporters, as well as for the local and national economy. The objective was clear: to become the largest cargo airport in Brazil and to attract full-freighter operations that were unable to work from GRU Airport prior to the concession.

The major improvement made at GRU’s cargo terminal has increased the imports and exports warehouse’s storage capacity by 24% – totalling 16,000 positions – tripled the area of cold chambers for exports and imports, and, with more capacity on the transelevator, doubled the overall cargo-handling capacity.

The improvements and more efficient management have helped the airport consolidate its leadership in the international air cargo segment, with a 41% market share of Brazilian imports and exports up to February 2016; in 2011, GRU Airport’s market share was 33%. Finally, to continue to grow in a demanding period, GRU Airport Cargo has an incentive package for full-freighter cargo in order to attract and consolidate even more operations at the airport, reducing airline costs and increasing their efficiency.