US Air, Frontier Pare Service to Costa Rica

August 1, 2008

US Airways and Frontier Airlines will suspend service to San José from several hubs during the rainy season due to a drop in demand and a rise in oil prices.

While US Airways plans to cut three flights per week from its Phoenix and Charlotte, North Carolina, hubs over coming months, Frontier will nix its five weekly flights out of Denver from mid-August through mid-December.

US Airways’ one weekly flight out of Phoenix in September and October will be cut this year due to the drop in demand, said Michelle Mohr, a US Airways spokeswoman.

Likewise, the carrier will schedule three weekly flights out of Charlotte, as opposed to last year’s five trips per week.

The two airlines join a growing list of carriers shrinking service to San José. American Airlines discontinued its two weekly flights from Los Angeles on April 7 and cut two weekly flights from its Dallas/Fort Worth hub.

“We vary the schedule according to season and demand,” said US Airways’ Mohr. “We’re suspending (the non-stop flight from Phoenix to San José) during a brief period during the green season when demand is lessened and bumping up to daily service when demand goes up.”

Mohr was reluctant to blame oil as the sole reason for flight suspensions. But, she noted, “Fuel is factoring into everything we do.”

Meanwhile, Denver-based Frontier Airlines will suspend its service to San José from Aug. 17 to Dec. 19.

“We’ve seen that the routes aren’t as profitable in the September through November months,” said Frontier Airlines spokesman Steve Snyder.

Although Frontier just started its Denver-San José leg earlier this year, Snyder said the company had planned “all along” to cut the service with a seasonal drop in demand.

While US Airways travelers in the Phoenix area will be rerouted to other hubs for San José connections, Frontier customers will have to choose another carrier.

The financial footing of Frontier Airlines is shaky. The company filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 10 after its principal credit card processor, First Data, requested a 100 percent advance on all ticket purchases.

Normally, Snyder explained, processors receive a certain percentage of sales from the time of purchase to the time of flight in case an airline defaults.

First Data’s request was not a complete surprise, considering the “kind of credit crunch and economic conditions that we’re looking at right now (in the United States),” Snyder said.

Unlike other airlines filing for bankruptcy, including ATA Airlines, Aloha Airgroup, and Skybus, Frontier is still flying due to a favorable ruling by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

The court’s ruling prevents First Data from immediately upping its fee on purchases.

More S.J.-Panama Flights

Starting Aug. 15, Panamanian company Copa Airlines will provide three more weekly flights between San José and Panama City.

Copa currently offers five daily flights between the two capitals. With the additional service, Copa will provide a total of 38 weekly flights from JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport to the Panamanian capital.

The new flights will run on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, leaving Panama at 12:26 p.m. and arriving in San José at 12:42 p.m. The return flight leaves San José at 3:13 p.m., landing in Panama City at 5:30 p.m.

Increased customer demand was the primary reason for the service bump, according to Copa account executive Guiselle Zúñiga.

Panama City also serves as a hub for flights heading north, south and to Caribbean locations.

Travelers face fewer complications passing through Panama instead of the United States, as a visa is not required, Zúñiga said.

Copa and Continental Airlines formed an alliance in 1998. Together, the two airlines provide 127 flights throughout the United States and Central America.

Copa’s expansion of services comes as a surprise move considering flight cuts among most U.S. airlines, which point to rising oil prices as a reason for industry-wide reductions in service.

Flirting with the $150 per barrel mark in recent weeks, the price on Tuesday dipped to $121.

–Leslie Friday

 

 

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