These are trying times for a beleaguered airline industry. In the past two years alone, carriers have had to contend with soaring oil prices, capacity cuts and heightened security measures for flights to the United States. A cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland grounded flights to, from and within Europe last month, hemorrhaging millions of dollars a day from many airlines serving Costa Rica.
Yet through it all, service to and from Costa Rica has survived and thrived for local airlines as well as 17 foreign carriers, with two major routes beginning since the start of the year and two others anticipated by year’s end.
Mexican airline Aeromexico kicked off a new route in March as a brand-new carrier to Costa Rica with daily service between Mexico City and JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport, northwest of San José. The new route illustrates a key promotion decision in the industry: That it’s not strictly about markets at either end of the route.
“Travel between Costa Rica and Mexico is just one of our objectives,” Wálter Heckel of the airline’s public relations department told The Tico Times by phone from Mexico City.
A slew of advertising seen here promoting travel to Aeromexico’s 43 destinations in its home country illustrates that point.
But Aeromexico is also promoting travel to and from Asia, Heckel said. The airline’s evening arrivals and early-morning departures here are timed well to connect in Mexico City with its flights to and from Shanghai and Tokyo, a particular boon for business travelers.
“No visa for Costa Ricans,” Heckel said, touting the ease of connecting in Mexico City versus a U.S. airport, a factor also applying to Aeromexico’s European services from the Mexican capital to Madrid, Barcelona and Paris.
With Aeromexico serving 14 destinations in the United States, the airline also offers its Mexico City hub as an alternative connection point for North American visitors to Costa Rica.
American Airlines has been a longtime fixture in Costa Rican aviation with flights to and from Miami and Dallas. Last month, American complemented those services with a daily flight to and from New York City’s JohnF.KennedyInternationalAirport.
The new flights allow for more convenient connections for passengers living in the northeast United States, enabling them to bypass immigration, customs and connections in Miami. Flights depart from JFK late in the afternoon and arrive back early afternoon, allowing for connections with American’s European routes.
In the works are future plans for Costa Rican domestic airline Nature Air to expand its international service to neighboring countries north and south.
Late 2010 or early 2011 should see flights to Managua and Panama City with larger planes than the airline currently uses for service around Costa Rica. The Panama flights will use the domestic AlbrookAirport just outside Panama City in the former Canal Zone rather than the larger TocumenInternationalAirport, 30 minutes east of the capital, used by most international airlines.
“It’s a long process, but we’re working on finalizing plans,” said Nature Air Sales and Marketing Director Alexi Huntley.
Nature Air presently serves Bocas del Toro, on the Caribbean coast of Panama.
Fly Me to Costa Rica
An ever-increasing number of nonstop or direct international flights serve three airports in Costa Rica.
To/from San José (Juan Santamaría, SJO):
Aeromexico (www.aeromexico.com): Mexico City
Air Canada (www.aircanada.com): Toronto
Air Panama(www.flyairpanama.com): David
American (www.aa.com): Dallas, Miami, New York City (JFK)
Avianca (www.avianca.com): Bogotá
Condor (www.condor.com): Frankfurt
Continental (www.continental.com): Houston, Newark
Copa (www.copaair.com): Guatemala City, Managua, Panama City
Cubana (www.cubana.cu): Havana
Delta (www.delta.com): Atlanta
Frontier (www.frontierairlines.com): Denver
Iberia (www.iberia.com): Madrid
Jet Blue (www.jetblue.com): Orlando
Martinair (www.martinair.com): Amsterdam, Orlando
Mexicana (www.mexicana.com): Cancún, Mexico City
Spirit (www.spiritair.com): Fort Lauderdale
Taca (www.taca.com): Bogotá, Caracas, Guatemala City, Guayaquil, Havana, Los Angeles, Lima, Managua, Mexico City, Miami, Panama City, Quito, San Andrés, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa
US Airways (www.usairways.com): Charlotte,Phoenix
To/from Liberia (Daniel Oduber, LIR):
American (www.aa.com): Miami
Continental (www.continental.com): Houston
Delta (www.delta.com): Atlanta
US Airways (www.usairways.com): Charlotte
To/from Pavas (Tobías Bolaños, SYQ):
Nature Air (www.natureair.com): Bocas del Toro