QCOSTARICA – Arriving in Costa Rica by way of the Juan Santamaria International Airport, known locally as the San Jose airport, during the afternoon rush hour, typically between noon and 4 pm, can be a stressful experience at best.
This is mainly due to the high volume and the inability of the immigration service, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME), to properly staff the terminal with officials to meet passenger demand efficiently.
Such was the case on Wednesday, January 26, when immigration services collapsed during the afternoon peak hours with the arrival of nearly 7,000 travelers, who faced long lines to carry out corresponding entry procedures.
Yesterday’s was not an isolated case, the saturation of services has been repeated in recent weeks, mainly in the afternoon peak hours when large aircraft from Europe coincide in their arrival, and, without any major changes to staffing, despite the DGME’s assurance to the contrary, claiming to have reinforced officials the Juan Santamaría and Daniel Oduber international airports (Liberia).
Wednesday afternoon, the DGME added publicly, in a statement, that they “hope” to add an unspecified number of officers at the beginning of February.
“The Immigration Police is committed to completing the largest number of (immigration) posts that are enabled and active since personnel from different regional areas were transferred,” it indicated.
According to official information provided by the immigration service, on Wednesday, movement at the San Jose airport was more than 14,000 passengers – 6,543 leaving the country and 6,876 entering.
The collapse, says the DGME, originated because half of those users coincided between 1 pm and 4 pm, when some 12 flights landed, several of them wide-bodied such as KLM, Air France, Edelweiss Air, Lufthansa, Iberia and British Airways, according to information available on the airport website.
Immigration director Raquel Vargas said on Wednesday that they are coordinating other entities such as the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) and Aviación Civil – Tourism Board and Civil Aviation – to verify other situations that could be affecting, such as the arrival time of flights, the physical space available for passengers and the verification of health requirements that people should already have in their hands so that the procedures can be carried out more effectively.
According to Vargas, the Immigration Police has 500 officers, of which 200 are stationed at the two international airports.
“To face the high seasons, the (Immigration) Police must reduce the operational capacity in other land immigration posts and other operational offices, today there are 50 more police officers in both airports dealing with immigration control, it is our maximum capacity,” said the Director.
In 2021, 1,505,355 passengers were received at Juan Santamaría and 421,781 at Daniel Oduber Airport.