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GOL Premium Economy Review B737-MAX8 Asuncion Paraguay ASU to Sao Paulo Brazil GRU

August 26, 2023
Osman Dadi
Although more on the low-cost side of things, The GOL premium economy offering was more than adequate from Asuncion to Sao Paulo.
From
ASU
To
GRU
Duration
1h40m
Via
GOL
Seat(s)
5F
Points Used
92,000 Aeroplan points
Cash Spent
~$110

After a week-long business trip in Asuncion, Paraguay, I returned on a completely different route to the one I came in. Heading back to New York, I opted to fly with GOL Premium Economy from Asuncion to Sao Paulo before connecting from Sao Paulo to Montreal with Air Canada and finally to New York.

My GOL aircraft at the gate
My GOL aircraft at the destination gate in GRU

This is entirely different from my way in, where I flew from New York to Santiago, Chile, with LATAM before connecting onwards to Asuncion. Overall, I was satisfied on the first leg of my journey home in GOL Premium Economy. I enjoyed the hard product, which is based on Air France KLM B737s. It had a very European style Business Class experience. On the other hand, I was a little disappointed with the lack of Wi-Fi, food, and soft product.

Booking A GOL Premium Economy Ticket

This flight was booked as an award booking using Air Canada Aeroplan points. The flight was part of a more extensive itinerary from Asuncion to New York via Sao Paulo and Montreal.

Booking online was easy, and the Air Canada site was as efficient and easy as ever. I first secured this route for 52,000 points plus taxes and fees. However, unfortunately, I had to cancel and rebook and was not able to get anywhere near as good a deal.

At the end of the day, the whole itinerary ended up setting me back 92,300 points plus CAD$145/$110. While not as good as my first booking, it was still cost-effective in the grand scheme of things.

When booking, you can select a seat for your Air Canada legs of the flight, although I (rarely for me) failed to do so. However, I could not check In or select seats in advance for the GOL leg of my itinerary.

Online Check-in

The GOL online check-in deserves a special mention since it did not work. I tried repeatedly, and it always failed to find my reservation.

Overall, I found the GOL web interface to be relatively poor. I could not even select my seats before I got to the airport. Fortunately, the Premium Economy section was virtually empty, so seat selection was not an issue.          

The Ground Experience

When it came to the ground experience, my lawyer friend in Paraguay advised me to arrive at the airport at least an hour and a half in advance, and if I could manage two hours, even better. The reason he gave me is that many South American airlines leave early! It’s maybe the only place in the world where early departures and closures are routine.

Drop Off at Asuncion ASU airport
Drop Off at Asuncion ASU airport

Taking his advice, I arrived at the airport via Uber at 10:05 a.m. for an 11:40 a.m. flight. Ultimately, this was unnecessary; the airport was super deserted, and everyone for the flight was already inside, it seemed. However, as the old saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry!

Entrance of Asuncion Silvio Pettirossi airport
Entrance of Asuncion Silvio Pettirossi Airport

Overall, I loved my ground experience at the Asuncion Silvio Petrossi Airport. It was fast and efficient. And I found the airport easy to use and navigate. The airport has a small, cozy, snappy feel that is hard to replicate anywhere bigger.

GOL Airlines Asuncion Check in Location

The GOL Airlines check-in area is easy to find mainly due to the tiny size of Asuncion ASU airport. Arriving at the airport, there is a single small drop-off area on the second level. Walking inside, you are immediately met with the main check-in area with many check-in counters.

Asuncion ASU Departure board
Asuncion ASU Departure board

I found counters for LATAM, GOL, and Aerolineas Argentinas, which were all staffed and open for business, so there must have been some other flights scheduled for departure around the same time as mine.

GOL check in area at Asuncion
GOL check in area at Asuncion, with times of Asuncion and Sao Paolo shown

Once you have checked in, the security and immigration area is to the far left of the terminal. While there were only two lanes, there was very little traffic, and it did not take long to clear immigration and security.

Finally, through security, there is an area with the usual shopping options and a duty-free zone.

Gol Premium Economy Check In At Asuncion (ASU)

Fortunately, the check-in area was relatively empty, and several GOL counters were available. Four stations were fully staffed, so I did not end up waiting in line.

GOL Premium Economy boarding passed
GOL Premium Economy boarding passes

There was also a GOL VIP counter, which I could have used, but I chose not to since there were no lines. I found the agent very friendly and spoke English. He thankfully allowed my request and assigned me a window seat.

However, I was not assigned a good seat on my following Air Canada flight and ended up with an aisle seat 6G.

The VIP Gold Lounge and Boarding

The Plaza Premium VIP Gold lounge is the only available lounge at the tiny Asuncion airport. I used my Capital One Venture X Priority Pass membership to gain entry and brought a friend traveling on the same flight.

VIP Gold Lounge entrance
VIP Gold Lounge entrance

The lounge was perfect for a short-stay, no-frills facility, with the highlights being the delicious empanadas and the view of our B737-MAX8 pulling into the stand! It was slightly late, coming in at 10:50 a.m.

Boarding

Boarding was late; the boarding pass stated that it was scheduled to begin at  10:40 a.m. However, the previous flight arrived at 10:50 a.m., and our boarding didn’t start until 11:05 a.m. Being directly next to the gate, I left the lounge at 11:15 a.m. and showed up at 11:16 with the boarding underway.

GOL Premium Economy flight boarding gate at ASU
GOL Premium Economy flight boarding gate at ASU

The gate agents let me bypass the lines and head directly to Zone 1 boarding. However, the jetway was very congested with passengers. It took another ten minutes to board and get to the seat.

GOL  flight boarding gate
GOL flight boarding gate
The over crowded jetway
The over crowded jetway

As I entered the aircraft, I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful aircraft interior with grey and orange tones and an immaculate presentation. Boarding finished early, and the aircraft doors slammed shut at 11:32 a.m.

GOL Premium Economy Cabin and Seats

The GOL Premium Economy cabin is similar to many Intra European business-class cabins. They normally feature three seats with a  little extra legroom, and the middle seat remains unoccupied. Instead, there is a small center console in the middle seat. However, the physical seats are exactly like the ones in the rest of the aircraft.

GOL Premium Economy Cabin
GOL Premium Economy Cabin

The GOL Premium Economy cabin comprises five rows in front of the aircraft and is separated from the main cabin by a curtain stowed during takeoff and landing. The overhead bins at the front of the plane are reserved for Premium Economy passengers.

The rear of the GOL Premium Economy Cabin
The rear of the GOL Premium Economy Cabin looking forward

The color palette is a very tasteful grey and orange. I found the cabin was spotless, even though you could tell the product was aged and old.

GOL Premium Economy Seat 5F

At first glance, I was disappointed to run into Recaro seats on the aircraft. They are my least favorite of all airplane seats. Although these particular ones felt a little better padded than others  I have tried, I still found them awfully uncomfortable.

GOL Premium Economy Cabin bulkhead
GOL Premium Economy Cabin bulkhead

The seats featured an attractive grey and orange color scheme and came with a GOL pillow and blanket, which was very bright orange in a plastic wrapping. They were a nice touch, and I found both were comfortable and warm.

GOL Premium Economy seat center console
GOL Premium Economy seat center console
GOL Premium Economy seats
GOL Premium Economy seats

A center console occupies the middle seat with a tray table and drinks inset. Very similar to Air France and KLM in their intra-European business class.

GOL Premium Economy seat legroom
GOL Premium Economy seat legroom

The seats featured one USB socket, although I found no power outlets, which was disappointing. The seats featured plenty of foot space, and there were no boxes or devices in the way under the seat in front of mine.

GOL Premium Economy cabin rear
GOL Premium Economy cabin rear

The overhead bins, air vents, and lighting were the standard ones you would expect to find on any Boeing 737 Max.

Standard Boeing 737 air vents and lights
Standard Boeing 737 air vents and lights
GOL Premium Economy Blanket and Pillow
GOL Premium Economy Blanket and Pillow

Seat Controls

Unsurprisingly, the seat controls are very limited since this is a premium economy flight. There is only a single control to recline the seat partially. Which is about as much as you can expect on a GOL Premium Economy seat

The GOL Premium Economy Amenity Kit

No amenity Kit was offered on this flight.

GOL Premium Economy Inflight Entertainment & Wi-Fi

There was no IFE in the traditional sense, with screens embedded in the back of the screen in front of you.  Instead, you could connect to the local Wi-Fi with your device and access a vast selection of entertainment options.

GOL Premium Economy IFE
GOL Premium Economy IFE on my laptop.

Connecting was effortless, and the instructions were on a sticker on the back of the seat in front of you. One thing to remember with no power outlets if you stream some entertainment is to ensure your device is fully charged before the flight.

Wi-Fi

There is no Wi-Fi available on the flight that gives you access to the internet. While a Wi-Fi network is available on the flight, and it is gate-to-gate, it does not provide an internet connection, only access to the vast IFE catalog.

The Flight 

Surprisingly, the flight left on time, so it was a very fast turnaround. We slowly pushed off from the gate and plodded along to the runway.

GOL flight being loaded for takeoff
GOL flight being loaded for takeoff

Takeoff was one of the more turbulent ones I have experienced, but not too bad.  We took off in a southwesterly direction before heading over to the West.

Flight taxiing to the runway
Flight taxiing to the runway

The crew was friendly and professional, with one member dealing with the 5 rows of Premium Economy and two looking after the rear of the plane. They were also multilingual and spoke English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Airborne and heading towards Sao Paulo
Airborne and heading towards Sao Paulo

There were no pre-departure drinks. Instead, after takeoff, I was offered a choice of orange juice, Champagne, or water. I chose the orange juice, which was delivered promptly after takeoff in a GOL-branded real glass.

GOL Premium Economy post departure drinks
GOL Premium Economy post departure drinks

GOL Premium Economy Meal Service

The Premium Economy ticket included a meal service, and 30 minutes after departure, a cart appeared with the meal service. I was offered a choice of a salami and cheese sandwich or a tomato and cheese sandwich.

Start of meal service
Start of meal service

The pre-packaged sandwiches were clearly mass-produced somewhere since they had expiry labels on both. The sandwiches came in a plastic wrapping.

GOL Premium Economy meal service
GOL Premium Economy meal service
Sandwich expiry date
Sandwich expiry date

In terms of taste and culinary experience, the sandwiches left a lot to be desired. The sandwich was just bread (very crunchy bread), two salamis, some mayonnaise, and three slices of cheddar cheese. To be honest, it was a bit of overkill on the cheese. That was pretty much all I could taste. I did some midair meal prep and took off one slice of cheese to make the sandwich edible.

Very crunchy salami and cheese sandwich
Very crunchy salami and cheese sandwich
Way too much cheddar cheese in my sandwich
Way too much cheddar cheese in my sandwich, and only two salami slices.

The meal included a dessert on the plastic tray. It was served in a plastic pot covered with a plastic lid and accompanied by a GOL-branded silver metal spoon. In terms of taste, it was rich, creamy, and pure sugar.

A very rich and creamy GOL premium economy dessert
A very rich and creamy GOL premium economy dessert

The flight attendant did the rounds of the cabin, offering coffee from a serving tray. It was rich and strong but a little small; it was served in a small cup that felt underwhelming. Everything feels small in size on GOL. No sooner had I finished eating than the trays were then collected promptly.

GOL premium economy  tiny coffee, more would be better
GOL premium economy tiny coffee, more would have been nicer

While it was okay, I would have liked to have more coffee earlier on this flight. It came very late into the flight, near landing time.

Arrival at Sao Paulo GRU

We began our descent into Sao Paulo GRU thirty minutes before landing. We hit the city from the Northeast, so there were some great views to be had on the descent.

Great views of the city arriving into Sao Paulo GRU
Great views of the city arriving into Sao Paulo GRU
Deplaning from my flight
Deplaning from my flight

After touchdown, we taxied to a gate in terminal 2 that was directly adjacent to the Immigration and Customs area.

At this point, the deplaning process got chaotic, and I noticed many passengers started getting up before the plane had even docked at the gate.

I had chosen to spend my relatively long layover in transit at the airport. However, with my layover time, I should have entered Brazil and worked from the city.

The very long walk between T2 and T3 in Sao Paulo
The very long walk between T2 and T3 in Sao Paulo

The transit process was easy; my passport and ticket were checked, and then I made my way to the security screening. Once through, my quest to find a lounge began with a very long, boring walk to Terminal 3, in what is a very large airport.

Transferring from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3.
Transferring from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3.
Interior of Sao Paulo GRU Airport
Sao Paulo GRU Airport transfer junction to Terminal 2 and Terminal 3

I could not find a good lounge to go to and ended up spending a solid hour walking around this airport. By now, I wished I had gone to Sao Paulo instead. Finally, after much deliberation, I finally settled on the Banco Safra Lounge for Star Alliance fliers.

Final Thoughts

The GOL Premium Economy experience was virtually identical to any European business class experience. And it was good enough for a short flight. While the seats were comfortable enough for Recaro Premium Economy seats, they are still not my favorite. However, GOL did well with the aging cabin, which was spotless and served by friendly crews.

On the downside, the food was nothing to write home about and was minimal, and the lack of Wi-Fi was annoying, although not critical on such a short flight. While the lack of power outlets could be a substantial irritant on longer flights, it didn’t matter so much on this one. 

Pros:

  • Easy Check-In in person
  • Friendly crews and staff that speak many languages.
  • Beautiful cabin
  • Decent seats
  • Clean cabin.
  • Vast array of In-Flight Entertainment via a personal device.

Cons:

  • Online Check-In didn’t work well. The GOL web interface needs development.
  • Not a fan of Recaro seats; this was no exception.
  • Only USB port available.
  • No Power ports – so charging one’s device can be problematic.
  • No Wi-Fi
  • Bad food, barely edible; I was disappointed with the food’s lack of quantity or substance.

Verdict: 7/10