Homeward Bound: Delta Economy Rio de Janeiro to Atlanta to DC and Gol Lounge GIG

This is the third of three posts covering my November 2019 trip to Rio de Janeiro. You can read about the origin of this trip here, and my last post, covering my stay at the Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana, here.

Delta Flt. 60 Rio de Janeiro to Atlanta (GIG-ATL)
Boeing 767-300, Economy
Sched. Dep. 10:40PM        Sched. Arr. 6:43AM+1
Actual Dep. 10:32PM         Actual. Arr. 6:21AM+1
Delta Flt. 2594 Atlanta to Washington-National (ATL-DCA)
Airbus A321, Economy
Sched. Dep. 8:34AM          Sched. Arr. 10:12AM
Actual Dep. 8:49AM           Actual Arr. 10:19AM

Although my flight didn’t leave til 10:40pm, I left the Hilton at 6:35pm, as I had really run out of things to do on a rainy Monday in Rio. Given the weather, I figured there might have been traffic; it took about an hour and I was at the airport by 7:30pm. On the ride over, I reviewed the upgrade list and saw there had been a big change in the number of available seats in Economy comfort since check-in. I realized that there had been an issue with the Sunday night flight, leading to a cancellation and an extra later flight on Monday. A ton of people got rebooked onto my flight, which ended up being important to the story.

Upon arrival at the terminal at Galeão, there was a bit of a line at the Delta counter, but I was able to use a kiosk and get my boarding pass. There was no real wait at security, and no wait at passport control, so I was pretty quickly through. I hadn’t been to Galeao since it had massive renovations and it was quite a change. Passport control dumped me into a massive duty free, then a meandering walk through lots of stores, before hitting a large atrium where you could head towards the gates, or upstairs to the lounges, and the new Aerotel, airside hotel.

Atrium at Galeao

Aerotel GIG

All of the lounges are new since my last write-up back in 2016. With Priority Pass, I had access to either the Plaza Premium lounge or the Gol lounge. Online reports debated which was better, so I figured I’d check out Gol first, which was farther away but closer to the Delta gate.

Four lounges at GIG

Gol Lounge GIG Entrance

I ended up spending my whole time in the lounge, which was really nice. It was quite large, but there were people in all of the different seating areas which made for difficult photo taking.  Upon entry, there was a large area with sofas and armchairs. Past that, there was a large buffet area, with a dining seating area. The dining table area was filled with really loud, boorish Americans. So, I kept going and grabbed one of the little booths they had in the back.

Scenes from the Gol Lounge Rio de Janeiro – Galeao

Booth seating at Gol Lounge Rio Galeao

The buffet had a pretty wide variety of items, though all very heavy foods: pizza, pasta, fried rice, stew, potatoes, fried cheese things, a ham and cheese “salad,” and lettuce.  There was also a lot of bread and some small sandwiches, and dessert cups. None of it was very good, but better than nothing I guess?  There was also self-serve beer and soft drinks by the buffet.

Buffet at Gol Lounge GIG

My not very-healthy meal

While eating, I found the little cubby claustrophobic, so moved to one of the seating areas towards the back, which was pleasant.  I then headed to the small bar where I got a tasty caipivodka, ordered from a friendly bartender off a small cocktail menu.

Dranks

I felt really bad for the bartender, as the aforementioned rowdy Americans kept going back to the bar, ordering shots and saying some culturally unaware and factually incorrect things about different drinks. (I don’t remember what exactly, but my notes from the entire visit include things like “this dumb woman won’t shut up poor bartender.”) Even though they were seated in an entirely different part of the lounge than me, they were so loud that I could hear them through headphones. It was like they were having a frat party in the lounge.

In all, a fine lounge, but I do wonder what will happen after Delta leaves its partnership with Gol soon. LATAM currently uses the American Admirals Club and that won’t last long now that LATAM is getting together with Delta. If, as many suspect, Gol ends up linking up with American, it seems a natural option would be for LATAM to take over the Gol lounge, and use that for Delta and Gol. But who knows.

I had thought I might make it to the Plaza Premium Lounge, but the Delta app showed boarding starting about 20 minutes earlier than scheduled, so I headed that way. It was a pretty long walk from the lounges to the actual gate, with not much in the way of services by the gate itself. The gate area was a bit of a disaster. Boarding hadn’t actually started yet. There were three lines that just said “Main Cabin” with no distinction, along with the priority lane.  The boorish Americans were on line as well, and seemed to be joined by 100 of their friends.  They kept running from line to line, treating the whole gate as their personal private plane.  Finally, someone asked them whether they were a group – because it was such a blatant invasion of every other customer’s space.  One woman announced that they had all attended a convention for “Jeunesse.” “What is ‘Jeunesse’?” the other passenger asked. “A multi-level marketing company focusing on healthy living and ‘youth enhancement.’”  Reader, I was already annoyed by these people, but I reflexively spat out “Of course, they’re part of a pyramid scheme.”

She insists Jeunesse is *not a pyramid scheme* everyone

Reader, members of a cult/pyramid scheme do not like when other people call it a pyramid scheme. One of the cult members, who I would not buy any “health” or “youth enhancing” products from, started tearing into me to tell me it wasn’t a pyramid scheme, and to “mind my business.”  (Apparently, the orderly boarding of my flight was not ‘my business.’”)  As we finally started boarding, one of the other scammers, who I had had no interaction with, told the gate agent that I had been “very rude” and I don’t know if he was trying to get me off the flight or what. The Jeunesse way? Then the other poor souls who had been snookered kept referring to me as “the crazy man” very loudly, because apparently the mark of insanity is recognizing pyramid schemes and not devoting my life to selling “youth enhancing” products and shotgunning beers.

You can read more about Jeunesse here.

Once on board, I ended up sitting next to a Jeunesse “distributor” who had been oblivious to the drama, and he kept getting texts from the woman who was very proud of her role as a top-seller/recruiter/Cult leader, talking about how he was sitting next to the crazy man. Meanwhile, many of the Jeunessers were complaining about their seats, as many had been scheduled to fly the day before and were outraged that they didn’t have the same seats or seats together on this flight. They continued talking across the plane but thankfully there was no more drama that I was involved in.

My seat was in row 18, which was the first row behind Comfort+. Other than the legroom, there was no difference I experienced on the flight between Comfort+ and main economy on my two flights. For some reason, the flight attendant didn’t give eyeshades/earphones to my row, even though every other row got them, so I couldn’t tell if they were any different than the ones I got in Comfort+ on the outbound flight.

Even with the chaotic boarding, we pushed back from the gate early at 10:36pm, and after a long taxi, were wheels up at 10:56pm. I was curious to see how Delta’s new main cabin economy service would play out from an outstation like Rio, and it definitely was not as good as it had been coming from Atlanta.  It started at 11:11pm, with the same hot towel service, followed five minutes later with the menu, full-size water bottles, and the placemat/cutlery roll-up. Twenty minutes later, the “welcome” Bellini was served- much more promptly than on my outbound flight.

Delta Main Cabin Menu, Rio de Janeiro to Atlanta (GIG-ATL)

The flight attendant working my aisle was, for lack of a better word, unpleasant. Not only had she skipped us for the earphones/eyemask, she was totally brusque at every interaction. In coach, I’m not expecting much, but she was just nasty.  She snapped at people who asked what the Bellini was, as if everyone should be familiar with that drink, or even the concept of a coach welcome beverage.

Twenty minutes later, the main meal service began. There were conceivably three choices of entrees, carne seca, ravioli, or a salad with chicken…but even though I was only in the sixth row, and I heard no one order the salad, they were “out” of the salad—making me wonder if they ever had any. So, I was stuck with the carne seca mixed with rice, and a side of pumpkin. Unlike the flight from Atlanta, there were no choices of appetizers—or appetizers at all. The entire meal was the main, a guava cheesecake, and a roll with butter. It was…not good. The cheesecake was the highlight. Perhaps Delta was still working on getting the improve meal service established in Rio, but it seems like Delta should try to at least make the service from outstations slightly more comparable if it’s going to market its upgraded economy service on long-haul flights.

Gross carne seca and sad Delta Economy dinner GIG-ATL

About 30 minutes later, there were shouts of “coffee, tea, water?” while trays were cleared, and by 12:50—two hours into flight—the cabin lights were dimmed. I ended up getting a decent amount of sleep, about 6 hours on and off, before the lights came back on about an hour outside of Atlanta. The breakfast carts were already in the aisle. The menu had said the choices were a ham and cheese focaccia sandwich or an egg and mozzarella croissant. But the flight attendant said the choice was “turkey and cheese” or “egg and cheese.” I did the egg and cheese which may or may not have been the croissant specified on the menu. It was fine, although the fruit bowl it came with was quite sad.

Breakfast, Delta Main Cabin GIG-ATL

At 6:13am local time, we were on the ground at Atlanta, and at the gate by 6:21am.  Global Entry had a bit of a backup due to someone who wasn’t supposed to be there, but the transfer security was pretty easy, and I was on the train to the opposite end of the airport, the T concourse, at 6:40am.

I hadn’t realized that only the Skyclubs in concourses E and F only have showers until I was almost at concourse T, whoops. So, I just spent my time at the smaller Skyclub in concourse F enjoying the buffet, which included an egg-white frittata, potatoes, sausage, breads, pastries, oatmeal, and fruit salad.  I also always love the fresh peanut butter machine in this club. The one complaint was they only had one kind of bagel…blueberry…which is an abomination. The club was nice and quiet as it was all business travelers and not pyramid schemes, and it was a pleasant hour or so before I headed to my gate for an uneventful, though slightly delayed, flight into DCA.

That concludes my Rio trip report. I’m going to try and do a few Paris/Luxembourg posts at some point before covering Dublin and Belfast, work permitting.

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