The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Tuesday it had found Costa Rica did not implement, within a reasonable time, provisions of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the last 9 years and reduced its rating to Category 2.
The new rating means Costa Rica’s carriers, Volaris and Avianca Costa Rica*, can continue existing service to the United States but will not be allowed to establish new service to U.S. destinations.
The downgrading from Category 1 to Category 2 means Costa Rica either lacks the laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or the Direccion General de Aviacion Civil (DGAC) – Civil Aviation – is deficient.
The FAA did not elaborate.
Costa Rica was assigned a Category 1 rating in 1996. The FAA conducted an in-country reassessment of Costa Rica in October 2018 and had met with DGAC officials in February to discuss the results.
The Minister of Public Works and Transportation, Rodolfo Méndez Mata, did comment on the downgrade, saying “We do not know if that transcendent aspect is weighing for the resolution that they have issued by virtue of the strong implication that it has (…) It is one of the most important findings that they have claimed where they imply a slowness in the attention procedure timely application of that rule”.
However, there are at least 22 findings and there is a report that, according to Civil Aviation and the MOPT, they do not know.
The Minister only explained that the indications are related to backwardness in regulations related to the licenses that are granted to aeronautical personnel, with aircraft operations and airworthiness.
“The main issue that emerged is the delay in implementing amendments that come out of ICAO, at the macro level is what the minister mentioned; for years, no follow-up was given to these amendments,” confirmed Guillermo Hoppe, Director of the DGAC.
Hoppe, however, insisted that they do not know the details of the study.
According to the DGAC director, on Monday, representatives of the US embassy in San Jose informed him of the downgrade. Months ago, he said, the atmosphere was very positive.
For now, he said, it is up to Civil Aviation to continue working.
“We will continue to monitor all operators and aircraft that enter Costa Rican skies. We take care of regulating, of certifying and after that, giving due vigilance to all the operators at a national level,” Hoppe said.
Hoppe expressed that it is “complex to be able to correct deficiencies of the last 9 to 10 years in a matter of a few months. The idea is to implement them so that the operators apply them,” acknowledged Hoppe.
Not about the air accidents
Hoppe denied that the downgrade has any relation with air accidents, specifically with the tragedy of December 31, 2017, when a small plane with 10 Americans and two Costa Rican crew crashed in Corozalito de Nandayure, Guanacaste. All died.
The aircraft was operated by Nature Air, a company that at that time was facing economic problems and operations difficulties. In fact, months later, the shutdown operations.
Downgrade believed not to affect tourism
Rodolfo Méndez affirmed that the downgrade will activate a joint work with the FAA to recover the qualification.
“We are to understand that this will not affect the tourist arrivals, it (the downgrade) has a unique effect on Costa Rican airlines licensed for flights to the U.S.”, explained Méndez.
Méndez stressed that it does not affect international airlines with flights to and from Costa Rica and that the audit that resulted in the downgrade has nothing to do with airport security either.
The minister said that international airlines are not affected.
“The foreign flag airlines that arrive and operate in Costa Rica have their normal operation and can increase the frequency of their flights if they want,” said the director of the DGAC.
*Avianca Costa Rica (formerly known as LACSA – Lineas Aéreas Costarricenses S.A.) operates international scheduled services to over 35 destinations in Central, North and South America. The airline previously used the TACA/LACSA moniker when it was a subsidiary of Grupo TACA. Since May 2013, following Avianca’s purchase of Grupo TACA, Avianca Costa Rica became one of seven nationally branded airlines (Avianca Ecuador, Avianca Honduras, etc.) operated by Avianca Holdings group of Latin American airlines.