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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–The Lake Hille/ASA Company presented the study of the mega million resort project to be constructed in Tarcoles Beach in the pacific province of Puntarenas. The project that will be called “Punta Loros” would include 34 apartment buildings, three hotels, and 18-hole golf course and common areas of leisure. The investment would be of $400 million. Next to Punta Loros another resort called Nativa would share the Tarcoles Beach. Just 45 minutes away from San Jose, the area of Tarcoles Beach in Garabito will become another part of the Costa Rican Riviera, this area in the Central Pacific of the country. If the new International Airport is constructed in Orotina (should be ready by 2025), Punta Loros would be just 15 minutes away from the new mega airport.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Air Costa Rica is the new brand name of Tica Air according to the Public Registry of the airline, which has launched the second phase of a certificationn process and expects to receive approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation within four to six months to operate as an international airline. The first stage of the airline’s plans include starting with charter flights to other countries in the region and then opening international routes to the United States, Nicaragua, Panama City and Colombia. Carlos Víquez, the director responsible for the formation of the airline , told El Financiero (EF) that “Civil Aviation now have 10 days to review the technical information provided, as the legal and financial documents have already been accepted. After that period, the government entity will usually provide a list of differences, for which the company has 30 working days to respond. ” Air Costa Rica is a company whose associates, George Novey and Eduardo Stagg, also own Air Panama. This company has operated since 2006 and has over 300 employees and 18 aircraft. Its core business is domestic flights in Panama and its only international route so far is San Jose. Last February, Stagg informed El Financiero that it was interested in operating a route to Miami from San Jose, taking advantage of the fact that Avianca had left that slot empty after closing the former LACSA hub at Juan Santamaria International Airport. They have also announced flights to Managua, Panama and San Andrés. Air Costa Rica would operate one of the Boeing 737-300s that Air Panama has purchased. At the moment Air Costa Rica seems to be the most probable Costa Rican carrier to start air services as Ticos Air has not been able to take off and has lost momentum.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–By the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 new airlines will start services to Costa Rica. One new airline will start flights from California informed Marc Bourreau, a consultant of the Costa Rican Tourism Board. The airline was not mentioned but analysts believe could be Alaska Airlines or Virgin America. The other flight will connect Paris with San Jose via the Dominican Republic, most likely XL Airways that already operates from Charles de Gaulle to Punta Cana. The Costa Rican Tourism Board presented May 7th a detailed document with all the accomplishements of the past four years in regards to connectivity of Costa Rica with the world. At the moment San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport is serviced by 16 airlines and Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport is serviced by 11 carriers. The Costa Rican government through the ICT (Costa Rican Tourist Board) with the support of AERIS and Coriport have been making initial contacts with airlines such as Alaska Airlines, Southwest, Allegiant, Eastern Airlines, XL Airways, GOL, TAME, Transaero Airlines and Aeroflot in the last months pursuing future services to both international airports. Effective May 8th a new president takes over and the new Minister of Tourism, Wilhem von Breymann will be in charge of luring more airlines to Costa Rica, still the powerhouse of tourism in Central America.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador–VECA Airlines (Vuelos Economicos de Centro America) the new start-up airline and El Salvador’s flag carrier established in late 2013 in San Salvador, El Salvador is close to start its international operations. The main airline hub is located in San Salvador at Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (formerly Comalapa International Airport). The airline is expected to commence service in June 2014 with regional service to major cities in Central America. VECA Airlines is expected to start their services with two Airbus A-319 leased from lessor International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC). The first of these, a former Cyprus Airways aircraft, has already been delivered to the carrier, while its sistership is being prepared in Miami, Florida ahead of its official handover to the start-up. Both aircraft will be configured in a single-class, 144-seat economy class arrangement. The start-up intends to bring competition into the Central American market following the recent merger of Avianca and TACA Airlines. Several former TACA Airlines employees work now at VECA Airlines, the new runner up as the Salvadorian major airline after the absorption of TACA Airlines by the Colombian flag carrier. It is unclear if VECA Airlines will expand it’s “Wings” beyong the Central American countries but Salvadorian and Nicaraguan authorities hope the airline would open flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York and Washington-DC. VECA Airlines will operate to Guatemala City, San Pedro-Sula, Managua, Panama City and San Jose, Costa Rica. The Juan Santamaria International Airport will be VECA Airlines secondary airport.
MIAMI, Florida–A group of American Leisure travel agents have declared the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica as the hottest destination in 2014. The opening of Liberia’s International Airport (official name: Daniel Oduber International Airport) has triggered a development of new hotel and resort properties. Last December Hyatt opened its first Central American resort, the Andaz Papagayo Bay. This hotel has already been named one of the best resorts in 2014: http://www.cntraveler.com/hot-list/2014/best-new-hotels-world-photos_slideshow_Andaz-Peninsula-Papagayo-_17. In February Preferred Boutique Resorts opened El Mangroove at Panama Beach, also in the Papagayo Bay. For November 2014 AM Resorts will opened The Dreams Las Mareas at the beautiful Salinas Bay: http://www.dreamsresorts.com/las-mareas. For 2015 two new additional resorts will open: Melia Paradisus Papagayo Bay and the FEN Resort at Tamarindo Beach. Future projects include: a Marriott, a Wyndham, a Mandarin Oriental and a super deluxe Rosewood Resort in Monte del Barco. Guanacaste is often called “The Golden Coast” or the Costa Rican Riviera. The growth and development of new high end resorts has places the region as the hottest destination for Honeymoons and Weddings, Golfing and Meetings & Incentives. Liberia International Airport is serviced by American Airlines, Jetblue, United, USAirways, Frontier Airlines, DELTA Airlines, Sun Country, Air Canada, West Jet, Sun Wing Airlines and Air Transat from North American cities, plus COPA and Avianca from Panama City and San Salvador respectively. Domestic airlines SANSA and Nature Air operate flights from San Jose.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–German carrier Condor Airlines announced it will add a new weekly flight between San José and Frankfurt, Germany starting on November 4th. Felicia Lorenzen, Condor’s representative in Costa Rica, said the company will submit in coming days all documentation required by the Civil Aviation Administration. If approved flights on the new route will depart on Tuesdays at 9:20 a.m. from the Juan Santamaría International Airport, just outside of San José. The carrier currently operates two flights between Costa Rica and Germany, all with layovers in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Those flights leave on Mondays at 7:40 a.m. and on Thursdays at 8 A.M. from the Juan Santamaría Airport. The aircraft have a capacity for 270 passengers. “The new flight reflects a greater interest by German travelers in visiting Costa Rica, but also by Costa Rican travelers who are increasingly using Frankfurt as a starting point for their trips to Europe. Condor’s hub in Frankfurt currently connects 75 destinations in Europa, Asia and Africa,” Lorenzen explained. Condor is the second European airline that operates into Costa Rica. Data from the Costa Rican Tourism Board and Immigration Administration indicate that 54,000 travelers from Germany entered the country in 2013. Those who entered on a tourist visa stayed an average of 18 days and spent some $78 daily.