After months of remodeling projects, two national airports will open their doors again, to the relief of airline companies that patiently anticipate high tourist season.
Both the Puerto Jiménez airport and the Nosara airport have been closed since the end of July for renovation projects.
These two projects are part of a Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) plan to do remodeling and construction projects at all the nation’s 27 airports.
“Our intention, when approving this project, was to offer the tourist – national and international – better service and superior security when using the country’s airports,” said MOPT Minister Karla González.
The Nosara airport remodeling project cost about ¢560 million (about $1 million) and includes a new customer service module and an upgrade of the landing strip.
The airport, a 35-minute flight from San José but a five-hour drive, is on the NicoyaPeninsula on the Pacific coast.
Although this project is set to be finished at the end of December, the airport will reopen for business Dec. 7.
The Puerto Jiménez airport, on the south PacificOsaPeninsula, will reopen Dec. 1 after a four-month closure that forced travelers to take alternate routes to Golfito, the nearby port city.
In the first six months of 2008, the Nosara airport reported more than 300 travelers passed through its terminal. The Puerto Jiménez airport saw about 1,154 passengers from January to July, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.
Since the temporary closure of the Puerto Jiménez airport, Sansa Regional Airlines has been paying the cost of land transportation service between the Golfito airport and the closest pier; however, boat service from there to the Puerto Jiménez pier, across the Golfo Dulce, has been charged to the customers, according to César Solís, Sansa’s general manager.
Solís estimates that his company has been spending about $5,000 to $10,000 a month for the additional transportation.
Those expenses include land transportation for passengers in six to seven daily van trips, two additional employees to attend to customers, as well as transportation and meal costs for these two employees.
The remodeling project in Puerto Jiménez dealt with widening the landing strip to 825 meters by 12 meters and the platform to 1,713 square meters with a special flexible pavement. The landing strip also got a new coat of paint. The project cost about ¢114 million (about $207,000).
Sansa has been making three flights daily to the Golfito airport, four during high season in January. In addition, Sansa offered six direct, daily flights to the Puerto Jiménez airport, plus two additional flights during the high season.
Nature Air reported a slump in the number of travelers this year as a result of the airport construction.
“Since August, we have seen a significant drop of 4,500 customers, compared with our numbers from last year. We saw our numbers go down about 8 percent,” said Alexi Huntley, Nature Air’s sales and marketing director.
Huntley added that Puerto Jiménez represents an important destination for Nature Air, and that air travel between the OsaPeninsula and San José is key to the region’s success.