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.
SAN SALVADOR,El Salvador–El Salvador International Airport (also known as Comalapa International Airport) will be upgraded in the next years to become the most important connecting hub north of Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport. The government office that handles the international terminal, CEPA (Comision Ejecutiva Portuaria Autonoma) is reaching an agreement with the State of Maryland that will support the development of several projects that include the construction of new terminals and the revamping of the existing one. On December 9th the Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley and the President of CEPA Alberto Arene signed a MOW in San Salvador. Avianca Airlines (former TACA Airlines) closed its Costa Rica hub last May and transferred most of the flight operations to Comalapa International Airport. The new start-up LCC airline VECA Airways has also chosen Comalapa International Airport as its home base. The new Salvadorian carrier will start services in 2014 between San Salvador and all the Central American capitals with two Airbus A-320s.
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.