The airline counter at the Juan Santamaria international airport in San Jose. Photo Jorge Arce, La Nacion
The airline counter at the Juan Santamaria international airport in San Jose. Photo Jorge Arce, La Nacion

(QCOSTARICA) In the past few years Costa Rica and Central America has transformed from being a two major airline market, to one with new players, lower prices and greater connectivity.

The arrival of “low-cost” airlines to Costa Rica and the region has resulted in lower airfares in the region and North American and European destinations.

According to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) – Costa Rica Tourism Board, airline prices started dropping in 2015.

For example, last year (2015) the airfare for a round trip from Costa Rica to Central america was around US$350 and more; to Colombia (South America) $600; an economy flight to Europe at least US$950; and to Canada and the United States around US$500.

In the period between 2011 and 2014 the fares were much higher, sometimes double of 2015: airfare to Nicaragua would set you back US$350, US$450 to Panama, Colombia was around US$900; airfares to Miami would be more US$500.

But that has all changed.

Graphic by La Nacion
Graphic by La Nacion

Airlines like Copa Airlines (Panamanian) and Avianca (Colombian), two major airlines who had the market pretty well to themselves, have taken notice, dropping their prices on scheduled daily flights.

Copa, for example, went further creating its own low-cost airline, Wingo, to tap into that market.

Today, airfares from San Jose to Colombia can be as low as US$350, less to Miami or New York; a return flight to Toronto is under US$500. For about the same money, Air Canada will take you to Europe, by way of Toronto, from San Jose.

Within the region, startups like Air Costa Rica will now fly you between San Jose and Guatemala from US$200, less than that to Panama on Air Panama or El Salvador with Veca.

In total, regional airlines now offer 197 direct flights, including 63 by Copa to Panama, its hub to other destinations to the rest of the world.  Avianca’s hub in the region is El Salvador.

In addition to lower airfares, there are also more direct flights to North America and Europe.

Air Canada and Westjet offer multiple direct flights weekly between San Jose and Toronto. All the major U.S. airlines have daily flights from cities like Miami, New York, Dallas, Houston and Baltimore, among others, to San Jose.

As well a growing number of European cities are now being served  with direct daily flights to and from San Jose: Madrid on Iberia; London on British Airways; Frankfurt on Condor; Munich on Thomson Airways; and just started yesterday, Paris on Air France.

Report with notes from La Nacion, Centralamericandata.com