Best Airport Lounges At Sao Paulo International (GRU)

by Giovanni

A few weeks ago, I had a layover in São Paulo International Airport (GRU) to connect onto the Qatar Airways fifth-freedom route to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Between my Qatar business class boarding pass, Oneworld Emerald status, and American Express Platinum Card, there were plenty of lounge options in Terminal 3 where my flight was departing from. (Priority Pass lists a total of seven lounges at Guarulhos combined between Terminals 2 and 3!)

What do all of these options mean? Lounge hopping, naturally. I checked out three major GRU airport lounges in total:

  • American Airlines Admirals Club
  • Sala VIP LATAM
  • American Express lounge (used as contract lounge by a number of carriers including Qatar Airways, KLM, Air France, and Emirates)

I also planned to check out the Star Alliance lounge but was unfortunately denied entry. Although the lounge is listed as accepting Priority Pass, the attendant informed me that access is suspended after 5:00pm for Priority Pass. Let’s go lounge hopping.

The lounges I did end up visiting all could be accessed with my Qatar Airways business class ticket, regardless of status.

Location Of GRU Airport Lounges

Aside from the underwhelming GOL lounge, all the international lounges in Guarulhos are located in Terminal 3 where most international flights are located.

Since I was connecting from a LATAM flight from Rio de Janeiro, that meant I needed to take the roughly 25-minute walk from terminal 1 and pass an additional security screening and border control before arriving in Terminal 3.

American Express lounge GRU Sao Paulo

The American Express lounge at Guarulhos Airport is located immediately in front of the escalators to the lounge level.

Airport lounges at GRU Terminal 3 are on their own level located up the stairs or an elevator to your right following security. It’s located before the main duty-free shopping area.

A Quiet Oasis: Admirals Club GRU

I first checked out the American Airlines Admirals Club. It’s located at the end of the hallway next to the Mastercard lounge. It opens at 1:00pm to cater to American’s afternoon and evening departures from São Paulo.

How To Access: Access for the lounge is open to Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire passengers flying on a Oneworld airline, first and business class passengers on qualifying international bookings, and Admirals Club members.

If you don’t already have status with a Oneworld airline, the best way to get Admiral’s Club access is by getting the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard which includes membership alongside an excellent table of benefits that more than offset its annual fee. Keep in mind that as of November 2019, you must be flying same-day on American or a Oneworld partner to access the lounge with this card.

Guarulhos Airport Admirals Club entrance Photo by Giovanni Hashimoto

Seating At The Admirals Club GRU

I arrived around 3:00pm and there were only a few other passengers there. The lounge is quite spacious. There’s abundant space to spread out with various types of available seating.

Unfortunately, the lounge, while expansive, does not feature apron or any runway views.

GRU Admirals Club foyer Photo by Giovanni HashimotoGRU Admirals Club seating Photo by Giovanni HashimotoGRU Admirals Club seating Photo by Giovanni HashimotoGRU Admirals Club television lounge GRU Admirals Club television GRU Admirals Club seating Photo by Giovanni HashimotoGRU Admirals Club wall seating

Workspace, Internet, and Playroom

Internet Speed: The internet speed at the lounge clocked in at 9.6 mbps download and 7.1 mbps upload speed on a fast.com speed test. Not super fast, but respectable for Brazil where speeds lag global standards. There are a few Windows computers available for use as well.

GRU Admirals Club computers. Photo by Giovanni Hashimoto

The lounge has a small playroom for children with bean bags, various books, games, and more.

GRU Admirals Club playroom

Dining and Drinks

The lounge features two buffets, a self-service bar, and plenty of space in the dining area.

The lounge has an extensive wine selection in addition to a limited number of spirits. Beer and sodas are in the fridge.

  • 2017 Villa Sandi Treviso “Il Fesco” Brut (Italy)
  • 2018 Indomita Gran Reserva Chardonnay (Chile)
  • 2018 De Martino Estate Reserva Sauvignon Blanc (Chile)
  • 2017 Don Guerino Malbec Brut Rosé (Brazil)
  • 2017 Casa Valduga Brut sparkling wine mix (Brazil)
  • 2017 Louis Eschenauer Bordeaux Merlot-Cabernet (France)
  • 2017 Alamos Malbec (Argentina)
  • 2018 Mandorla Primitivo (Italy)
  • 2018 Pazzia Primitivo Puglia (Italy)

The buffet included a large selection of pastries, soups, and other snacks. There was a station with penne, puttanesca sauce, pesto, Greek rice, chicken in spinach sauce, and sauteed cauliflower, eggplant, and zucchini. This is certainly more than any Admirals Club that you’ll see in the US.

Overcrowded But Classy: Sala VIP LATAM

After the Admirals Club, I headed to the LATAM VIP Lounge located two doors down from the Admirals Club. Given LATAM’s hub at GRU, this lounge is significantly larger than the Admirals Club.

How To Access: Despite LATAM’s recently announced Delta partnership and intention to leave Oneworld (it’s happening in October 2020), the carrier is still a member of Oneworld for now, so standard Oneworld lounge access rules apply.

Passengers flying a Oneworld carrier in a premium cabin and Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald elites flying in any cabin are eligible for entrance.

Related: Oneworld Alliance In Trouble As Delta Snatches Away LATAM

Seating At The Sala VIP LATAM

Out of the three lounges I visited at GRU, the LATAM lounge featured the best apron views. By any standard though, the views were still underwhelming.

The lounge is laid out in several large zones with modern seating (with many outlets). However, of all the GRU airport lounges that I visited, this one was the most crowded.

gru airport lounges

The lounge has a sleeping area and an entertainment room. Both were completely full during my visit (as in, every couch in the room was taken.) I didn’t get any pictures but the facilities have not been updated since Ben at One Mile At A Time reviewed the lounge last year.

Credit: Ben at One Mile At A Time

Sala VIP LATAM at GRU sleeping room Credit: One Mile At A Time

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Sala VIP LATAM at GRU entertainment room Credit: One Mile At A Time

Workspace and Internet

A work area with large communal tables and a number of old Windows desktops were available.

Internet Speed: The LATAM lounge had a reasonable internet connection clocking a download speed of 26 mbps and upload at 21 mbps in a fast.com test.

Sala VIP LATAM at GRU conference table Credit: One Mile At A Time

Sala VIP LATAM at GRU computer workstations Credit: One Mile At A Time

Dining and Drinks

The lounge has a self-serve tap with Heineken. There is also a selection of wines available from Santa Digna (Chile) but I found them underwhelming. The sparkling wine on offer (referred to as “champagne” by the staff) was Chandon, a respectable Argentinian wine produced by an affiliate of LVMH.

gru airport lounges

The bar had a good selection of mid-range spirits including Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, Chivas Regal Scotch, Bailey’s, Absolute vodka (in a number of flavors), Bacardi, Beefeater Gin, Martini Extra Dry vermouth, Campari, Cachaca, and more. They had a list of some of their available drinks helpfully written out in Comic Sans font.

Unfortunately, there was only one bartender and five people waiting for drinks at the bar when I arrived so I moved on.

gru airport lounges

Although other reviews have referred to this lounge’s extensive food buffet, there was very little available when I visited the lounge around 4:30pm.

Aside from a few stale looking salads, pastries, and bread, there was very little else. Given the large buffet area, presumably, there would be more available had I visited earlier during lunch or later when dinner is served.

Let’s Talk Food: American Express Lounge GRU

The American Express lounge at Guarulhos is not a Centurion Lounge and functions as a contract lounge for a number of airlines. It replaced the airport lounge previously known simply as GRU Executive Lounge.

How To Access: Unlike other American Express branded lounges, this lounge has a quite liberal admission policy. It is a member of both Priority Pass and LoungePass. It is the lounge used by Emirates, Qatar Airways, Air France, KLM, and Alitalia at the airport. Of course, it is also available to American Express Centurion and Platinum cardholders.

Since I was flying business on Qatar Airways, this meant I had access two ways thanks to my American Express Platinum.

Related: Review: American Express Lounge By Pontus, Stockholm Arlanda Airport – ARN

gru airport lounges gru airport lounges

After entering the lounge, you are greeted by a mural and photo spot. The piece, titled Connections, “is part of a series of murals made by Eduardo Kobra. The artist aims to exalt freedom and respect between different cultures and nations.”

It was created using oil and spray paint on canvas and is a striking welcome to the tastefully laid out lounge.

gru airport lounges

Seating At The Amex Lounge GRU

The lounge is laid out in three zones with the first two divided by a partial wall with booths. The lounge is nicely decorated and offers plenty of comfortable seating including couches, lounge chairs, high tables, dining tables, and booths. Lots of outlets are available throughout.

The lounge does not have any apron views, unfortunately.

gru airport lounges gru airport lounges

In the back is a third area accessible only for Centurion cardholders and passengers flying first class on Air France providing à la carte dining and a quieter seating area. It is separated from the first two zones by a privacy wall and the bar.

Workplace, Playroom, and Internet

The lounge offers plenty of space to get some work done before boarding your flight. There was a conference table and even booths for private phone calls for focus – a thoughtful touch that I hope more lounges will incorporate.

Internet Speed: Of all the GRU airport lounges that I visited, the internet was slowest in the AMEX Lounge. In fact, the internet here was unusably slow. In a fast.com test, the download speed was 5.4 mbps and the upload was 5.4 mbps with a latency of 168 milliseconds, making it almost pointless.

Given the lounge was only about half full, one can only imagine how slow the internet must be when the lounge is at capacity.

gru airport lounges

There was a playroom in the corner near the entertainment area with toys, games, and a video game console.

Dining and Drinks

The lounge offers self-serve wine as well as a bar.  Four wines are available:

  • 2018 Tribu Chardonnay (Argentina)
  • 2019 Monte Paschoal Virtus Moscato (Brazil)
  • 2018 Monte Paschoal Virtus Cabernet Sauvignon (Brazil)
  • 2018 Carmen Insigne Carmenère (Chile)

The bar is located at the back of the main area of the lounge and acts as half of the divider from the first-class portion of the lounge. It has a good selection of mid-range spirits. A drink menu listed these cocktails:

  • Caipirinhas
  • Dry Martini
  • Aperol Spritz
  • Negroni
  • Cuba Libre
  • Absolut Magnifica
  • Blue Lagoon
  • Drink do Chef Erik Winterink (Jack, Sicilian lemon, mint, honey, and ice)

Higher-end whiskeys including Buchanan 21, Blue Label 21, Gold Label 18, and Cachaça are available for purchase by the pour. Coffee including espresso drinks could be ordered at the bar.

gru airport lounges gru airport lounges

I chose to order a dry martini. It was made using Jungle Gin (a local Brazilian gin) and served in a goblet. I’ve had better.

Fortunately, this lounge had the most extensive food selection of all the lounges I visited in Guarulhos. I’ll let the photos speak mostly for themselves here.

gru airport lounges gru airport lounges gru airport lounges gru airport lounges gru airport lounges gru airport lounges

One section of the buffet was designated for vegans and vegetarians. Although the selection is severely limited, I appreciated this as a VGML flyer (along with the clear labeling on all food items).

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The Upshot

All three GRU airport lounges that I visited had comfortable seating and decent drink selections, but the American Admirals Club and particularly the American Express lounge stood out for solid food selections.

Each lounge had something that stood out, so there wasn’t a clear cut winner or loser for the best lounge during my hop around GRU.

The Admirals Club GRU is perfect if you need a peaceful place to get some work done and has a surprisingly impressive wine selection, the Sala VIP LATAM is the spot if you need the fastest internet, and the American Express lounge is where I’d go for its food.

In my case, I headed back to the Admirals Club after checking out all three lounges to grab a drink and get some quiet work done ahead of my flight. When I left for my 6:30pm departure, I was the only passenger in the lounge.

What’s your favorite GRU airport lounge? 

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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dddcar December 13, 2019 - 7:45 am

I really appreciate your article Giovanni. I just wish I read it sooner! I was at GRU last night and had the same predicament as you…same choices between the 3.5 lounges (.5 for the Star Alliance). I did a few laps looking at each and selected the Admirals. What I thought was interesting (pedantic of me?) from your pictures is that the small sandwiches in the Amex lounge are exactly the same ones from the Admirals lounge. Bet these guys all use shared food services.
I’m curious to try LatAm when I return, and before I lose access as I don’t have Delta status. The Admirals is certainly a step up from the old lounge pre-World Cup. I used a shower at the Admirals. Not bad although there was quite a long queue. Feel like it’s always crowded around 8pm when the Miami and NYC flights are departing.
Really enjoyed the read…look forward to more.

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