Weekend at the Falls: American Business Class, Gol Domestic, and the Sheraton Iguazú Resort: Gol Smiles VIP Lounge and Domestic Service to Foz de Iguassu

  1. American to Miami in First, then Business Class to Sao Paulo
  2. Gol Smiles VIP Lounge and Domestic Service to Foz de Iguassu
  3. Sheraton Iguazú Falls Resort & Spa
  4. The Wonder of the Falls
  5. Gol Domestic Back to Sao Paulo and the Admiral’s Club Sao Paolo
  6. American’s Business Class to Miami and on to DC

I walked over to the transit check-in desk for Gol, it had a long line but I decided since I was there anyway I might as well grab my boarding pass rather than going upstairs, not knowing what the economy check-in line might look like there.

I had booked an aisle and middle in row 5, the whole plane is coach. Seat assignments secured by emailing contactus@golnaweb.com.br.

Brazilian domestic flights have a maximum weight for carryons of 5kg but the agent wasn’t the least bit worried, he just asked if I had any checked bags, I said no, and he handed me my boarding pass. Actually he printed two of the same pass, rather than one for each of us, so I’m glad I looked at them. That was quickly corrected.

Now it was off to find a lounge and a shower. I went upstairs and right by the domestic security queue found the Smiles VIP lounge. It’s Gol’s lounge, and I’m not an elite with them, but the lounge offers access via Diners Club and Priority Pass as well.

Inside I had to wait a few minutes for use of a shower, but the attendant said he’d page when one opened up. Internet access was via a code, you have to log in with personal information (name, ID number, but nothing whatsoever checks the validity of the data you enter to register). The coffee machine looked like it made good coffee, but the lounge had no milk or cream of any kind. The food didn’t look especially appetizing. It was crowded, the seating wasn’t all that comfortable, but my real purpose there was a shower.

There are two shower rooms and the attendant at the front desk gives you a real key, for which he’ll take a boarding pass or other ID as a deposit. The shower room to the left is small, to the right much larger. They’re not especially well lit, light enough to shower but I wouldn’t want to be a woman doing makeup in there. They give you a medium-sized towel for drying off, a small hand towel, and a small bath mat. There’s no shower kit per se, just a liquid soap dispenser on the wall. But the shower room was clean, the water pressure good, the water hot, and I was thrilled to refresh after the overnight flight.

Once through I caught up on email for about 20 minutes before it was time to go through security. No shoes of, no liquids out, no laptops out. It was just an x-ray and a metal detector. Through in a matter of seconds. I first proceeded to gate 15, just beyond security, where my boarding pass said my gate would be. But since this is Sao Paulo, the gate had changed to 23 (something the airport is well known for).

Queuing for the domestic flight was interesting. Everyone lined up. There were two lines, one was priority and one was regular. But there was no rhyme or reason to who went into the priority line, except that most people did not. The gate agent came through the line checking boarding passes and IDs, and ripping off a piece of the boarding pass. Anyone who had waited to get into line until after she had done this might have boarded without a ticket or ID check, and taken any open seat, though one presumes they did a head count to match actual load to the flight manifest (though I didn’t see them do this).

I don’t really understand the rush to board this flight, it didn’t much matter what order you got on. It’s a one-cabin coach domestic flight with plenty of overhead space since few people carry on rollaboards, most folks seemed to check large amounts of luggage and to respect the 5kg rule for carryons. I did not, of course, my 20″ Tumi was likely 30+ pounds.

The flight was uneventful. Buy on board drinks and snacks were offered, very few people took anything. I did see a large bottle of water from which plastic cups could be filled, so guessed that water was free, but I didn’t see anyone taking water. Everything else was charged. Since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast on the flight, I was hungry and bought a small sandwich which served the purpose of delaying my hunger until I could reach the Sheraton. (I had looked at food options in the domestic terminal but everything was unappetizing.)

Landing was to a remote position. For everyone at Foz de Iguassu — there are no jetways. Covered stairs are brought to the plane and you walk over into the terminal.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Back in the 90s I had a 6 week project in Sao Paulo, so went to Rio on the weekends on one of the domestic carriers, don’t remember which, used the domestic airports in SP and Rio. In any event, always had good service and full complimentary meal on a 45 minute flight. Not sure if they still do that, but those were the good old days, loved Brazil.

  2. @M you can see Gol award space signing up for a free account at FlightStats.com, I inventory s business class award space and X is economy awards. It also shows up at expertflyer.com which has a 5 day free trial.

  3. Can’t wait to hear about the Sheraton Iguazu. I am staying there in January as an award redemption. One question: did you have any problems with getting a taxi from the Brazilian side airport that would take you to the Argentinian side? And sis you have to pay the Aregentinian reciprocity fee when you crossed the border?

  4. @Rachel no problem getting a cab to go across, and no reciprocity fee — Argentina only imposes that for arrivals in Buenos Aires and Rio. The cab driver was happy to be paid in Argentinian pesos or Brazilian real (and for that matter he said he’d be happy with dollars or euros). The only thing to know is that the Sheraton is inside the park and you have to pay the park entrance fee to get to the hotel — and that must be paid in Argentinian pesos. Our cab driver offered to stop to have money changed along the way, but knowing that I’d need the pesos I already had them.

  5. Thanks Garry. It looks like i may avoid that fee too. I will be flying GIG-IGU and then IGR to AEP for a few weeks in BsAs. I can thinks of a lot better things to spend $160 on!

  6. If you can stay in transit in GIG and not enter Argentina, then you’ll avoid the reciprocity fee. But you’ll need a Brazilian Visa if you’re a US citizen.

  7. Yes, will need to get the Brazilian Visa. But I don’t understand about the Argentinian reciprocity fee being charged at GIG, which is in Brazil. How do they do that? (I will be in Rio de Janeiro for a week before heading to Iguazu). Oh well. $160, while better spend elsewhere, is a small price to pay for this trip of lifetime for me!

  8. Sorry I was just spacing, confused myself between the two Iguassu airports, and two connecting cities. As long as you do not enter Argentina via Buenos Aires you are not subject to the fee 🙂

    “A reciprocity charge is levied when visiting Argentina and
    entering at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) and Jorge Newbery
    (AEP) airports, to holders of normal pasports being
    nationals of:
    – USA: USD 140.-, valid for 10 years multiple entries. Exempt
    if also holding Argentine nationality (dual nationality) or
    if being crew member travelling on duty. “

  9. How long did it take from the airport to the Sheraton and was it about the same returning. Did you take a taxi back to the airport? Did you say how much it was?

  10. @Joan that’s in my next post! 🙂 But it took about 45 minutes each way and cost was about US$50… stay tuned!

  11. Iguazu Falls is absolutely amazing. The only waterfalls I’ve seen that rival it are Victoria Falls and Angel Falls (probably the best of the lot, when you consider the significant effort it takes to get there.) I’ll be visiting Kaieteur Falls later in the year — can’t wait.

    Niagara is great, too, but I grew up an hour away from there, so I find it less impressive.

  12. The park fee can be paid in US dollars as well. We were just there 3 weeks ago and didn’t exchange any money until we arrived at the Sheraton.

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