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Juan Santamaria International Airport of Costa Rica: Second Best

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Juan Santamaria International Airport as #2 after Tocumen Airport.
Juan Santamaria International Airport as #2 after Tocumen Airport.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–During the past 26 years, hundreds of airlines and airports across every continent have benefited from Skytrax Audit and Quality advisory services, as the British audit company has also helped them to improve and develop the customer experience. Recently Skytrax chose the best airports in Latin America (Central America, South America and Caribbean). For the region of Central America and Caribbean the Juan Santamaria International Airport of Alajuela/San Jose is the second best, just after Panama City’s Tocumen. The Panamanian terminal got the awards as the “Best Airport” and the “Best Airport Staff” at the World Airport Awards 2015 ceremony. In the list of the 10 best several Central American airports are also mentioned as Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport of El Salvador and La Aurora International Airport of Guatemala City. None of the airports of Honduras or Belize made the list. The ranking is made up by interviews made to more than 13 million passengers in 550 airports and 112 countries. The interviews evaluate the total experience of the passenger with 39 products and airport service areas like easy access, public transportation, comfort, cleanliness and the personal service offered by the airport employees. (The number in parenthesis indicates the position of the airport).

  1. Tocumen International Airport, Panama City (1)

Until last September 2014 the Panamanian terminal reported passenger traffic of over six million, an increase of 10% compared to 2013. The airport that is serviced by 19 passenger airlines and 14 cargo airlines is going through an expansion with the construction of the South Concourse that should be finished by 2017 putting Tocumen as the most modern airport in the region. The Panamanian terminal has been able to attract several European carriers like Air France, KLM, TAP Portugal and the German carrier Lufthansa which will start flights in November 2015.

  1. Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela/Costa Rica (2)

For mid 2015 the airport that services the Costa Rican capital should have a new commercial area and two additional boarding gates in the Eastern area of the terminal. AERIS, the private company that manages the terminal announced it will build a terminal for domestic flights (SANSA and Nature Air) with full comfort and will be ready by the end of 2016. Still the new construction of the Western area (where the maintenance hangars of COOPESA are located) has not started. The Juan Santamaria International Airport hopes to attract more airlines from Europe and South America in order to compete with the Panamanian airport that is known as the best in the region. It is expected the new start-up Air Costa Rica will use this airport as its main hub.

  1. Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (Comalapa), El Salvador (3)

The big problem that CEPA (the Salvadorian government company that manages the airport) has are funds in order to develop the expansion Master Plan of the airport. The project has been paralyzed for the past two years. The terminal has only a capacity of 1,6 million passengers and its hoped once the expansion is done, the amount of passengers handled can double. At the moment just some small remodeling has been done and airlines like Colombian Avianca that uses the airport as its main Central American hub suffers with almost an operationally collapsed terminal. The airport does not receives a “face lift” since the late 80s. Low cost carrier VECA Airlines uses the airport as its hub.

  1. Augusto Cesar Sandino International Airport, Managua (8)

This is the main international airport in Nicaragua and offers non-stop flights to 12 destinations. Panamanian COPA Airlines moves up to 30% of all the air traffic at this terminal. Since 2011 the passenger traffic has been increasing annually at 4,1%. In three years the country will have a new international airport in Rivas that is expected to offer flights to Asia. There is no more Nicaraguan flag carrier, reason why the Augusto Cesar Sandino International Airport is not a hub.

  1. La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City (10)

Located in Guatemala City’s Zone 13, this airport, once Pan American’s Central American hub has a runway of almost 3000 meters and it was fixed in 2010. Recently a new advanced system of baggage transport and security protection was introduced. The investment was of up to 1,43 million dollars. TAG is the only Guatemalan carrier (as Aviateca was totally absorbed by Avianca) and operates small prop planes from their private hangars, not using the main international terminal.

 

The alternate airport for Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria International

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The MEL Group hopes to convince investors for the construction of the new Limon International Airport.
The MEL Group hopes to convince investors for the construction of the new Limon International Airport.

LIMON, Costa Rica–Last week the Juan Santamaria International Airport that services the capital of Costa Rica, was under fire, literally almost. The powerful Turrialba Volcano erupted on March 11th and clouds of ash were flown into the Central Valley and reached the plain of “El Coco”, where the international airport is located, forcing the most important airport terminal in the country to shut down for a day and a half. The Airport resumed operations on Friday at 2:30 P.M. but more that 7000 thousand passengers were affected. Some airliners were stranded at the Alajuelan airport and some didn’t even departed from their original cities like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Los Angeles, New York, Newark, Dallas and Houston. Chaos really knocked the door at Juan Santamaria International Airport. And the biggest problem is that the future Orotina International Airport (just a project) is way delayed, the Costa Rican Government hasn’t event started to buy out the lands in the area where the new airport should be constructed. And even though Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport is one of the most modern airport terminals in Central America, still the Guanacaste airport is 5 hours away from San Jose and logistically is not the best to function as an alternate airport for the AIJS (Initials in Spanish for the Juan Santamaria). But MEL Group’s project of constructing an international airport in Limon could be that “safety net” so much needed not only as a cargo gateway in the Caribbean province but also as a real alternate airport. If the new Limon International Airport would have been operating, last weeks chaos could have been diverted. It is also expected that the new highway between Limon and San Jose will put a driver in the capital in less than two hours. Now the country and the Province of Limon would have to wait to see if the MEL Group project will get full support of the Luis Guillermo Solis administration. At the end this will help avoid many headaches for passengers and also for the airlines that service Costa Rica.

Southwest Airlines first Central American destination

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Southwest Airlines inaugural flight arrives in San Jose, Costa Rica, welcomed with the traditional water cannons.
Southwest Airlines inaugural flight arrives in San Jose, Costa Rica, welcomed with the traditional water cannons.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–March 7th marks the arrival of Southwest Airlines first flight into Central America. WN-602 from Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport arrived ontime to Alajuela’s Juan Santamaria International Airport full of American tourists hoping to enjoy the balmy weather of the hottest destination in Central America. Effective today, Southwest Airlines will operate daily flights from the BWI airport into Costa Rica. By November Southwest Airlines will also operate flights from Houston-Hobby International Airport to Costa Rica and also Belize, the second destination in Central America. Southwest is the latest LCC to open operations to Costa Rica (Interjet, Spirit Airlines, Frontier, jetBlue, Sun Country, Westjet, Rouge, Airtransat, and Sunjet already operate to San Jose or Liberia). It is expected that other LCC like Volaris of Mexico, Viva Colombia and GOL and Azul from Brazil could start flights into Costa Rica in the near future.

VECA Airlines starts flights to Costa Rica

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VECA Airlines operates two Airbus A-319s.
VECA Airlines operates two Airbus A-319s.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Salvadoran Low Cost Carrier (LCC) VECA Airlines landed at Juan Santamaria International Airport last February 27th. The airline will operate three times a week a flight from Guatemala City via San Salvador with an Airbus A-319 for 144 passengers in one single class. The airline is expected to offer excellent fares and compete with both Avianca and COPA Airlines. In 2009 the Colombian airline Avianca purchased GRUPO TACA and for a while the new airline operated as AviancaTACA but in 2013 the airline changed its name again to just Avianca. The Central American communities in the United States and Canada lost the emotional connection they used to have with the Salvadorian flag carrier that started in 1931 and now expect VECA Airlines to fill the void. Non official versions insist that VECA Airlines will start flights to Baltimore, New York, Houston and Los Angeles by the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016. The airline’s web site http://www.vecaairlines.com shows future services to Panama City from San Salvador.

Avianca Holdings 2014 net profit falls 52% to $120.5 million

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The airline operates four Boeing 787-8.
The airline operates four Boeing 787-8.

BOGOTA, Colombia–Avianca Holdings posted a full-year net profit of $120.5 million in 2014, down 51.6% from a net profit of $248.8 million in 2013. The Panama City-registered carrier reported full-year operating revenues of $4.7 billion, up 2% year-over-year (YOY), as expenses came to $4.42 billion, up 4.6% YOY. The company’s full-year operating profit was $284.6 million, down 26.1% YOY from 2013’s $384.9 million operating income.Avianca’s cargo revenue performance was strong in 2014, totaling $834.2 million, up 11.6% YOY. During the year, Avianca acquired a stake in Mexican airfreight carrier AeroUnion and entered into a commercial agreement with Etihad, “creating a stronger cargo operation and more connectivity from Los Angeles via Mexico, while also improving cargo connectivity to Europe, from Milan and Amsterdam to Bogota,” Avianca said. Avianca’s passenger traffic grew 4.5% YOY to 32.6 billion RPKs on a 5.9% rise in capacity to 41.1 billion ASKs, finishing 2014 with a full-year load factor of 79.4%, down 1.1 points from 2013. The company carried 26.2 million passengers in 2014, up 6.6% YOY. CASK for the full-year decreased 1.5% YOY to 10.7 cents, partly attributable to the drop in fuel prices during the 2014 fourth quarter, Avianca said. Excluding special items, Avianca reported an adjusted net income of $129.1 million for the year. The company said its 2014 EBITDAR (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and rents) totaled $786.7 million, down 5% YOY; Avianca’s full-year EBITDAR margin was 16.7%, down 1.3 points from 2013. In 2014, Avianca took delivery of 32 new aircraft, including 14 Airbus A-320 family aircraft, 10 ATR 72-600 aircraft for regional flight deployments, four Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, two A-330s and two A-330 freighters. All 10 of the company’s Fokker 50s were phased out and sold; the company’s entire ATR 42 fleet was retired as well. As of Dec. 31, 2014, the company’s consolidated operating fleet comprised 181 aircraft. Avianca Holdings, created in 2009, operates Latin American airlines Avianca (based in Colombia), TACA (based in El Salvador), Costa Rica’s LACSA, Guatemala’s Aviateca, Ecuador’s Aerogal, plus Avianca Brasil, TACA de Honduras and TACAPeru.

Liberia International Airport attracting more Airlines in 2015

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LIBERIA, Costa Rica–In January 2012, CORIPORT S.A., the company that manages Liberia International Airport (LIR) in the northern province of Guanacaste, inagurated a new state-of-the-art airport terminal. Months after the opening of the terminal, several airlines from the United States and Canada decided to start operations to the airport, well-known as the “gateway” to the Golden Coast of Costa Rica, or often called the Costa Rican Riviera. “We hope new airlines will start services to AIDO (Aeropuerto Internacional Daniel Oduber) in 2015” declared Francisco Cordero, the Commercial Director of CORIPORT S.A. to La Republica newspaper. “We were able to attract British carrier Thomson Airways. The airline will connect London with Liberia in November 2015. Some airlines opperate to Liberia and not to San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport, like WestJet and Sun Country”. Liberia International Airport is just 30 minutes away from the high end resorts in Papagayo Bay like Foru Seasons, Hilton and Hyatt Andaz and an hour away from Matapalo Beach, Mansita Beach and Conchal Beach where RIU, JW Marriott and Westin are located respectively. “On 2012, when we opened the new terminal, we grew 20% in reference to the years before and we grow 14% each month. Our goal is to close 2014 with 700 thousand passengers using Liberia International Airport as their gateway to Costa Rica”, concluded Cordero. CORIPORT S.A. has been already in talks with three airlines and once they reach an agreement they will be disclosed. JetBlue Airways started flights in November from Boston to Guanacaste every Saturday. At the moment the airport has seven positions, 4 with jetways and 3 remote ones. The expansion plans after 2016 include more jetways and ramps. The airport terminal also has been declared by U.S. travel and leisure magazines as one of the most user-friendly terminals in Latin America.

Liberia International Airport is hoping to attract three new airlines in 2015.
Liberia International Airport is hoping to attract three new airlines in 2015.

New Costa Rica Departure Tax Procedures Just Made Flying a Little Less Stressful

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Starting December 3rd, people traveling abroad from Costa Rica will no longer have to stand in line before taking a flight to pay the Costa Rica departure tax, which is currently $29. From that date, the cost of this tax will be included in airfare said the vice president of the Republic, Ana Helena Chacón. According to Chacon, an agreement was made between the bank, airlines, Immigration and Nationality, airport management, Ministry of Finance and the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) so that tax is included in the airfare. The idea is to simplify procedures and free up people from needing an extra step before boarding their flight. Departure tax in Costa Rica must be paid by everyone each time they leave the country by air and was approved by the Regulatory Law of the Rights, published in La Gaceta No. 205 on October 24, 2002. The rules require that these resources will fund the budget of the Technical Board of Civil Aviation and are exclusively dedicated to the expansion and modernization of airports and airfields in the country.

Juan Santamaria International Airport is the second busiest in Central America.
Juan Santamaria International Airport is the second busiest in Central America.

Spirit Airlines to fly San José-Houston four times per week starting next year

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SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–The U.S. low cost carrier Spirit Airlines said Monday it would open four weekly flights between San José and Houston beginning on May 28, 2015.The airline plans to open the new route to Costa Rica as part of its expansion in Latin America, the company said. Flights will use an Airbus A319 and A320 with the capacity to accommodate 178 passengers. Alberto López, general manager of the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), said the carrier’s announcement is important for the country as it will be the first flight of a low-cost airline from the central region of the U.S. to Costa Rica. “Texas is the third largest state where the best traveler prospects for our country live, which means its residents have a high interest in visiting or returning to Costa Rica. This new route and four weekly flights will increase the number of seats available and the number of tourists visiting our country,” López said on Monday evening. ICT studies show that Texas has 2 million residents who could be considered as top prospects for tourism in the region. “Texans are seasoned travelers with high income and higher education levels,” the ICT claims. Official reports also state that during the first nine months of this year, some 740,000 U.S. travelers entered the country by air with a tourist visa. U.S. tourists who entered Costa Rica in 2013 remained on average 10.4 nights and spent an average of $1,232 during their stay. Spirit’s announcement adds to five other airlines that have scheduled new flights to the country. Aeroméxico, JetBlue, Delta Airlines and United Airlines will increase flights to the country’s two international airports, Juan Santamaría, outside the capital, and Daniel Oduber, in Liberia City in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Last week, German carrier Condor started its third weekly flight to Costa Rica, and Cubana Airlines on Sunday resumed nonstop flights to Cuba. Thomson Airways and Southwest Airlines confirmed new flights in 2015, while Turkish Airlines, VECA Airlines and VivaColombia currently are in negotiations for opening routes to Costa Rica in 2015. Also Costa Rican start-up Air Costa Rica should start flights from San Jose to Miami, San Andres Island, Central America and Mexico with two Boeing 737-300s. ICT executives also hope that Spirit Airlines would consider Liberia Airport in the near future from both Ft. Lauderdale and Houston.

Spirit Airlines will start Houston-San Jose on May 2015.
Spirit Airlines will start Houston-San Jose on May 2015.

Massive Layoffs in Avianca

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BOGOTA, Colombia–On November 14th up to 1800 employees systemwide were laid off at Avianca Holdings. The airline consortium owner of Avianca, TACA, LACSA, TACAPeru, Aerolineas Galapagos and TAMPA Cargo is suffering as more competition enters Colombia, Central America and the airline has not been able to recover up to 200 million dollars from Venezuela. Avianca is the second oldest airline in the world, created in 1919 in Colombia and an icon in Latin America. The merger with the TACA Group in 2009 created for a while the biggest airline in the region. Central America and the north of South America are now excellent revenue producers for U.S. carriers and Latin American airlines. For 2015 Southwest Airlines will open its first Latin American city: San Jose in Costa Rica and Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza will develop by May a new Central American hub in Houston International Airport to compete against United Airlines. Salvadorian start-up VECA Airlines is expected to start flights in February 2015 with two Airbus A-319s to Central America and most likely Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and Baltimore. Also the Colombian LCC Viva Colombia has announced its interest to operate to three cities in Florida. Pressure on Avianca has build up and layoffs were needed to lower the operational costs. Rumors are that the airline will have a second wave of layoffs in February 2015.

Turbulent air ahead for Avianca Airlines.
Turbulent air ahead for Avianca Airlines.

Avianca 3Q net profit down 7.6%, passengers up 7.5%

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BOGOTA, Colombia–Panama City-registered Avianca Holdings reported third-quarter net profits of $33.2 million, down 7.6% from $35.9 million posted in the year-ago period. Operating revenues were $1.23 billion, up 3.9% year-over-year, as expenses rose 10.2% to $1.16 billion. Resulting operating income for the quarter came to $70.3 million, down 46.9% from $132.2 million in the September 2013 quarter. Avianca attributed the results to “redeployed capacity (ASKs) as well as the strong demand observed in the Colombian domestic market and … the entry into operation of the Bogota-London route.” Avianca’s third-quarter traffic grew 5.3% year-over-year to 8.7 billion RPKs on a 6.1% rise in capacity to 10.7 billion ASKs, creating a quarterly load factor of 81.3%, down 0.7 point from the 2013 third quarter. The company carried 6.9 million passengers during the quarter, up 7.5% from the 6.4 million passengers transported in the third quarter of 2013. Yield dropped 0.8% year-over-year to 11.9 cents. CASK excluding-fuel was up 5.8% year-over-year to 7.5 cents.nThird-quarter EBITDAR fell 14.8% year-over-year to $202.5 million. In the company’s quarterly results analysis, Avianca Holdings CEO Fabio Villegas Ramirez said, “Our cargo traffic expressed in RTKs grew 27% … resulting in an improvement of 600 basis points in load factor when compared to the third quarter of 2013,” Villegas said. “In addition, we have made further progress … with the completion of the acquisition of a stake of Aerounion in Mexico and the new commercial agreement with Etihad … which enables the company to improve its inbound cargo operation from Los Angeles via Mexico as well as enhancing connectivity to Europe.” On October 20th, Avianca Cargo and Etihad Cargo announced a commercial partnership agreement involving the deployment of freighter flights from Avianca’s Bogotá, Colombia, hub at El Dorado International Airport to Milan’s Malpensa Airport and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The twice-a-week service commenced operations November 12th. During the quarter, Avianca took delivery of 10 new aircraft: two Airbus A321s, two A320s and two A319s, plus four ATR-72s slotted to operate on the company’s domestic Colombian and Central American routes. Two ATR-42s were taken out of service. As of September 30th, Avianca’s fleet comprised 180 aircraft—165 of which are currently operational—including: 58 A320s (27 on operating lease); 36 A319s (17 on operating lease); 12 Embraer E-190s (two on operating lease); 11 ATR-72s; 11 A330s (10 on operating lease); 10 A318s (all on operating lease); 10 Cessna Grand Caravans; nine ATR-42s (five on operating lease); eight A-321s (six on operating lease); five A330 freighters; five Fokker 100s; three Boeing 767 freighters (one on operating lease) and two Fokker 50s.

Avianca 3Q net profits are down.
Avianca’s 3Q in 2014 net profits are down.