Starting October 16 customers flying on both Varig and Gol airlines will be able to accumulate miles through the Smiles frequent flyer program. Varig, which used Brazil's flag airline carrier, has been bought by Gol, after going into bankruptcy.
"Expanding the Smiles program to include Gol flights is a significant step towards our goal of offering our customers additional services to strengthen our relationship with them," said Tarcísio Gargioni, Gol's vice president, marketing and services.
Smiles, Varig's existing rewards program, is available in 212 countries, has issued one million memberships abroad and is the largest mileage program in Latin America with over 5.9 million enrolled members.
Miles are accumulated by purchasing Gol or Varig airline tickets or purchasing products or services from the program's nearly 115 non-air business partners in Brazil and abroad.
Gol's customers can enroll for free beginning October 16, through the website www.smiles.com.br or via phone through the Smiles Service Center. Existing program members, whose accumulated miles will not be affected, should also re-register beginning that date.
Starting November 16, miles can be exchanged for tickets to all Gol and Varig destinations based on the program's guidelines (available on the website in English and Spanish).
As customers accumulate miles they will become eligible for additional benefits and privileges, including membership-level upgrades and bonus miles, exclusive Service Center and check-in counters, extra baggage allowances and access to VIP airport lounges.
Smiles' non-air business partners include hotel chains, car rental companies, restaurants, insurance companies, publishers, educational establishments, banks, telecommunications companies and major banks and credit card companies in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
The company will also offer customers with Gold and Diamond Smiles cards access to two international VIP lounges, one at Guarulhos (São Paulo) and another at Tom Jobim-Galeão (Rio de Janeiro), as well as four domestic VIP lounges, located in Guarulhos, Tom Jobim-Galeão, Salgado Filho (Porto Alegre) and Afonso Pena (Curitiba) terminals.
The international lounge in Guarulhos offers seating for 202 and is approximately 400 square meters (4,305 square feet), making it the largest VIP lounge in Brazil. The area offers exclusive products and services, including shower-equipped bathrooms with no usage time limits (a common restriction in other lounges at major international airports), massage chairs to improve circulation and relieve fatigue and TV rooms offering 50-inch televisions, individual audio hook-ups and a number of popular cable channels.
"Varig's VIP lounges are now being converted into Smiles VIP lounges focused on improving our customers' well-being and offering exclusive items aimed at making their trip more comfortable," explains Gargioni.
The lounges also provide a relaxation area, laptop docking stations with wireless Internet connection, computer terminals with Internet access, an extensive selection of reading materials and a special Kids Area with children's books and games. The Smiles Lounge in Guarulhos is also the first in Brazil to offer a bathroom designed specifically for customers with disabilities.
Internationally, Smiles Gold and Diamond members have access to partner airline companies' VIP lounges in Bogota (Colombia), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Caracas (Venezuela) and Santiago (Chile).
With the integration of Gol and Varig's operations into one, unique route network, the company's ticket sales system and IATA codes will also be unified. The entire timetable, including Varig's inventory in the Iris and Amadeus systems, will be gradually migrated to the New Skies system under the G3 code.
By doing this Gol says it will reduce costs and simplify processes, simultaneously offering customers more convenient options when purchasing tickets.
"In this first phase, all international Varig flights will remain available for sale through www.varig.com and travel agents. However, as the company integrates both systems, all Internet sales and flight schedules for both brands will soon be available on one website, www.voegol.com.br.
This will greatly assist passengers in choosing the most convenient flight options," says Ramos. "Additionally, Varig's customers will benefit from the technological innovations already available at Gol, such as checking-in or purchasing tickets via mobile phone."