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.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–The Costa Rican Technical Council of Civil Aviation (CTAC in spanish) informed today of its expansion plans for the Quepos/Manuel Antonio Aerodrome at La Managua (code: XQP). The airport will become a regional domestic and international airport, capable of servicing aircraft as the regional jets Canadair CRJs, Fokker 70s and the ATR-72s. Today the aerodrome receives up to 20 flights a day, most of them domestic from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Two small carriers service Quepos/Manuel Antonio, SANSA Airlines (property of Avianca) and Nature Air. By 2015 the airport will be able to receive not only domestic flights but also internationals, since the new terminal will have Inmigration and Customs areas. Alvaro Vargas the Director of the Civil Aviation Board explained the upgrading consists in a longer and wider runway, bigger ramp, new airport terminal, fire station and hangars for airplane maintenance. The total cost of the upgrade will be of $5 million and its expected to bring more development to the area, well known as one of the “hottest” leisure destinations in Costa Rica. Quepos/Manuel Antonio Regional Airport will be the natural gateway to the Central Pacific, close to national parks, rain forests and spectacular resorts. It is also expected that airlines like Avianca would be interested in opening international services from its Central American hub at Comalapa International Airport in El Salvador, connecting the eleven North American gateways the airline services. Also new international Costa Rican carriers like Ticos Air and Tica Air International (property of Air Panama) are also expected to open flights to Quepos/Manuel Antonio once the airport has the new terminal building.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Johnny Araya Monge, the presidential candidate of the National Liberation Party (PLN) promised if he wins the elections in Costa Rica next February 2nd, to construct a new airport for the caribbean port city of Limon. In 1974 the Costa Rican Government opened the Limon Airport close to the Caribbean Sea. Domestic airlines in Costa Rica (LACSA, Aerovias Cariari, AVE, SANSA and later Nature Air) operated flights from San Jose to Limon, but no international flights have ever used the terminal that uses the IATA code LIO. The other provincial airport in Guanacaste (Liberia International Airport) which was also opened in 1974 became an international airport in 2001 when Delta Airlines started its non-stop Atlanta-Liberia non-stop run. The Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Liberia has helped the development of tourism in the region and it is exactly what the politicians and the tourism industry requires for the Limon Province, the poorest of Costa Rica but one with rich Afro-Caribbean culture and folklore, white sandy beaches and the beginning of a coral reef that goes all the way north to the Yucatan Peninsula. A new international airport for Limon is the newest political promise, but one that is a real need for the province.
QUEPOS, Costa Rica–Well known as the power house of tourism in Central America, the Civil Aviation Board (DGAC in spanish) is hoping to bring the domestic airports into the next level of service and connectivity. Costa Rica has only two international airports (with Immigration and Customs), Juan Santamaria International Airport that services San Jose and Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia/Golden Coast in Guanacaste. The rest of the airports are 100% domestic. Costa Rica has landing strips and some with terminal buildings at Tamarindo Beach, Nosara Beach, Samara Beach, Punta Islita, Tambor Beach, Quepos/Manuel Antonio, Limon, Golfito, Palmar Sur, Puerto Jimenez, Drake Bay, Carate Beach and San Vito. But it is Quepos/Manuel Antonio (with code XQP) the one that will become the next Costa Rican executive airport. The plan is to extend its runway and ramp, construct a new terminal building that can be developed in due time to accomodate Inmigration and Customs Areas. With an extended runway XQP could allow the operation of the ATR-42s and ATR-72s (the airliner used by Avianca Airlines from its Central American hub in San Salvador) and private airplanes. Members of the Costa Rican Congress hope the new President (elections on February 2nd 2014) will develop several more of the domestic airports into executive airports to satisfy the demand of the leisure destinations accross the nation.
SAN JOSE,Costa Rica–The airline cemetery in Central America is quite full now. The airline industry has changed dramatically since it was born in the 1930s in the Isthmus. Guatemala used to have airlines like AeroQuetzal, TikalJets and flag carrier Aerolineas de Guatemala (AVIATECA). The latter was absorbed by TACA International Airlines. Honduras had several carriers, Transportes Aereos Nacionales (TAN), Servicio Aereo de Honduras (SAHSA) and SOL Air. Nicaragua had Lineas Aereas de Nicaragua (LANICA) that folded its wings in 1980. The Sandinista regime created Aerolineas Nicaraguenses S.A. (AERONICA) that also closed in the 1990s. TACA International created Nicaraguense de Aviacion (NICA) that was also absorbed into GRUPO TACA in 1998. Costa Rica has been the Central American nation with the most airlines; Empresa Nacional de Transporte Aereo (ENTA), Lineas Aereas Costarricenses (LACSA), RANSA, SANSA, Vuelos Especiales Liberianos (VEL), Aero Costa Rica S.A. (ACORISA) and Aeropostal Alas de Centro America. ACORISA operated for five years and folded its wings in September 1997. LACSA and SANSA were fully absorbed by GRUPO TACA in 1998. Panama has had several airlines too; PAISA, Air Panama International, Aeroperlas and Compañia Panameña de Aviacion (COPA). Aeroperlas was purchased by GRUPO TACA and suspended operations in 2012. Air Panama International also folded its wings after Noriega was deposed, but a new domestic airline was formed using the same name. Finally El Salvador has had only one international airline; Transportes Aereos Centro Americanos (TACA International Airlines). The airline originally was founded in Honduras in 1931 but became the Salvadorian flag carrier. In the 1990s TACA bought the flag carriers of Central America and in 2009 it was merged into Colombian airline AVIANCA. The disappearance of all these airlines and flag carriers has created the need of new start-ups. For 2014 two new airlines will appear in Central America: LCC Salvadorian airline Vuelos Economicos Centro Americanos (VECA) and Costa Rican flag carrier TICOS AIR.