Flights via São Paulo

In the fall of 2004 we decided to make a spring trip to Brazil. In mid-November, after looking at different options, we called Gate 1 Travel and booked a 10-day trip for March 10, ’05, called “Kaleidoscope of Brazil,” which was sponsored by Varig Brazilian Airlines.

I believe the cost of this trip was $2,676 each, which included round-trip airfare from Miami (but not from Virginia to Miami).

When we did not receive the usual written confirmation after a month, we called Gate 1 and were courteously told that everything was fine. The next we heard from Gate 1 was in January after making the full payment. The travel brochure had shown a small map with direct flight connections — Miami-Manaus-Iguassu Falls-Rio-Miami — so we were startled to find that the flight to Manaus was routed through São Paulo, adding hours to a long red-eye flight.

During the trip, we found that every flight was routed through Sãn Paulo — by our fourth visit to that airport, we were much more familiar with its unique gate and monitor system. Had we known this before signing on, we might have looked for other alternatives. We certainly should have been told about the correct Varig flight routes to expect, and Gate 1’s brochure map should be updated.

Our complaint is about the lack of communication from Gate 1 rather than services on the trip: we feel that we spent too much of the trip going to, from or waiting in the Sao Paulo airport. During flights, Varig service was quite good, and once on the ground the tour was excellent. Guides and accommodations were as good as any we have experienced.

EDWARDS, Smithfield, VA

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Gate 1 Travel and received the following reply.

Thank you for forwarding our clients’ comments and allowing us the opportunity to respond to their claims.

The trip that the Edwards purchased was a Varig Brazil Vacations program, operated by Gate 1 Travel. As our clients mention, they did make their initial reservation on Nov. 22. At that time, and at the risk of getting a bit too technical here, our invoice queue was loaded manually. In other words, the reservations agent who made the booking in our office was responsible for adding the reservation to the queue in order that it be sent to the client. It appears that, in this case, the reservations agent forgot to make that step and it took a phone call to generate the invoice.

On Dec. 16, at the request of the Edwards that it be mailed to their home, the invoice was sent. A week later, the Edwards asked that we also e-mail it and they provided an e-mail address. It was immediately sent.

Our invoices have since been automated and now they are generated automatically when a booking is completed, so this type of issue cannot recur.

With regard to their flights, they were exactly as the Edwards purchased. The flight itinerary sent to the Edwards was exactly as it was when they made the reservation and as it appeared on all subsequent invoices sent to them.

(Editor’s note: example entries from the itinerary include “10 Mar 05 20:00 8819 RG MIA/GRU V HK 11 Mar 05 06:05” and “11 Mar 05 10:45 2200 RG GRU/MAO Q HK 11 Mar 05 13:30.”)

Yes, many of the flights were routed via São Paolo (GRU). This is the schedule provided by Varig Brasil Airlines and accepted by the Edwards at the time of reservation.

Although I appreciate the Edwards’ suggestion regarding our itinerary maps, this would not be possible because to every destination we offer there are many carriers and therefore many different routings. In most cases today carriers do stop in at least one other city before reaching their final destination.

My advice to the Edwards is to carefully check the routing when making their reservations and at that time consider the cost to purchase more direct flights, if possible.

I was of course pleased to read that they so thoroughly enjoyed their tour of Brazil and our services.

ILENE BRAUN, Vice President, Marketing & Sales, Gate 1 Travel, 101 Limekiln Pike, Glenside, PA 19038