Tuesday 6 June 2023

The year of the pandemic: the Juan Santamaría went from ‘bustling’ to desolation

The country's main air terminal went from a total passenger traffic of 551,664 in January 2020 to just 4,766 four months later

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6 June 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – Within a few months, the Juan Santamaría International Airport or San Jose airport (SJO), went from being “bustling” to becoming a practically deserted place. It went from being crowded with passengers to being filled with pain.

From bustling …

In January 2020, a total of 551,664 passengers (inbound and outbound) passed through the terminal, to 476,720 in February and 330,776 in March. By April, the passenger count at Costa Rica’s main airport had dropped to 4,766 people.

… to desolation

On March 18, 2020, Costa Rica closed its air, sea and land borders. Air traffic at the terminal was reduced to repatriation flights, Costa Ricans return from abroad and tourists headed home.

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It would not be until August when limited air traffic was reactivated, and not until November 1 when the country’s airports were opened to all.

The decrease in traffic is also chaotic when comparing months of last year with those of 2019.

The dramatic drop in the traffic of people through the air terminal, in the face of border closure measures due to the pandemic, put in check the administrator of the Juan Santamaría airport and all those who depend on the activities in the terminal, such as commerce, taxi drivers and luggage transfer service, among the many others.

What led to such a crisis? In a chaotic situation that representatives of the airport sectors describe with a broken voice, “It was a feeling of helplessness” because practically nothing could be done about it.

Aeris, the administrator of the airport, had to comply with the contract and, therefore, keep the terminal open: This led to losses of more than US$1.6 million dollars per month, which forced them to go to the reserves that were destined to finance works in the terminal.

The families of the transporters or taxi drivers resorted to selling meals house to house and operate their orange vehicles (airport taxis) side by side with red (regular) taxis.

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In the Mixed Institute of Social Aid (IMAS), a campaign was launched to assist the employees of the duty-free shops, since, before the closure of these shops, the termination of contracts and other labor figures were resorted to.

The gradual resumption of flights as of August 1, 2020, also meant a very slow recovery for those who depend on the Juan Santamaría.

The recovery in January has been hindered by the measures of the United States, Canada, and some European countries, with demanding requirements to enter their territories

Today, a year after the detection of the first case of the new coronavirus in Costa Rica, transporters and others continued divided into groups, working every other day.

2020, was going to be a very good year at the air terminal… a record-breaking year based on passenger traffic in the first two months.

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Then it all fell apart.

A year later and the pandemic has not ended and the measures of the United States, Canada and some European countries, with demanding requirements to enter their territories, the recovery of the first weeks of 2021 was brought down again.

The air traffic figures for February 2021 is proof.

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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