Friday 9 December 2022

Costa Rica recovers air routes, but international tourism remains lukewarm

Passenger flow in the Juan Santamaría is 13% with respect to the pre-pandemic levels: 17 airlines have already returned

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9 December 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – The country recovered most of the air routes that were frozen due to the Covid-19 pandemic, confirming the return of 17 international airlines that had slowed down their operations to avoid economic losses.

Last December 66,680 passengers moved through the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), Costa Rica’s main airport.  Photo: Esteban Monge

Despite this significant recovery, tourist traffic is lukewarm, to the point that between August and December 2020 it was only at 13% of the passengers who left the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in that same period in 2019, according to data from Aeris, the manager of Costa Rica’s major airport.

This traffic corresponds to 135,000 passengers, of which the majority were in December, with 66,680 travelers or 26% of what was in December 2019.

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Meanwhile, traffic at the Liberia Airport (LIR) in December was close to 30,000 passengers, according to estimates from Coriport, the airport’s concessionaire and member of the international VINCI Airports network.

In Liberia, most of the US airlines have already resumed operations, including the return of KLM and Canada’s WestJet in the last few days, thus consolidating nearly 300 flights to the Liberia airport this month.

“The return of flights to this terminal is gradual, so the usual traffic will also be gradual,” said César Jaramillo, general manager of Coriport.

Key to this has been the return of the U.S. airlines, which includes the inauguration of new routes by United and JetBlue. Traffic from the United States to the Daniel Oduber airport represents 84% of traffic throughout the year and almost 100% in low season.

At the San Jose airport, United and JetBlue also added new routes: Unite to and from Denver, Colorado and JetBlue to and from Los Angeles, California.

“The coordination between the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), Aeris and the airlines, together with the good tourist image of the country, has allowed Costa Rica to carry out a progressive process to recover traffic and prepandemic operations,” stated Erick Barboza,  Aeris commercial director.

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So far, the only US airline that has not resumed flights in Costa Rica is Southwest; other airlines are Air Transat (Canada), Albatros (Venezuela), Condor (Germany), British Airways (United Kingdom), Latam (Chile) and Interjet (Mexico).

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