San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Liberia airport renovation nearly finished

Long lines at the Daniel Oduber Quirós Airport will soon be a thing of the past.

On Nov. 17, a new passenger terminal will open at the Liberia airport in the northwestern Guanacaste province. The terminal, which was constructed by Coriport S.A. with an investment of $41 million, is expected to create a more efficient and expedient travel process for passengers at the country’s second-largest airport.  

“We’re going to put this into operation before peak season,” said airport general manager Francisco Cordero. “For Costa Rica, especially for Guanacaste, tourism is very important. We are going to start servicing customers with this facility beginning in November.”

At 23,000 square meters, this state-of-the-art structure dwarfs the current building in both size and capabilities. The new terminal will help increase tourism dollars, create roughly 100 new jobs, and provide a solution to the notorious Liberia airport lines that sometimes stretch outside the terminal, Cordero said.

In 2009, Coriport S.A. signed a 20-year concession to operate the new Liberia terminal and ground facilities. About 450 workers were hired during construction, which lasted one year, Cordero said.

According to Costa Rican Tourism Minister Allan Flores in an interview with the Tico Times last May, attracting airlines is crucial to the success of Costa Rican tourism.

“Costa Rica is considered to be a super destination for any visitor in the world,” he said. “But if an airport does not meet the required specifications for new airlines to start doing business here, then tourists will not come.”

According to the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, 225,224 passengers arrived at Liberia’s airport in 2010. Due to limitations, only nine international and two domestic airlines operated out of the cramped terminal, which could only accommodate about 900 passengers at a time. With tourism multiplying at an exponential rate in Guanacaste, expansion of the Liberia airport facilities was a priority.

“[The terminal] is positive for internal traffic because it is a larger building with air conditioning and better security,” said Alexis Vargas, airports manager for Nature Air, a local airline.

About 111 flights use Daniel Oduber International Airport each week, and airport officials expect that number to increase in 2012. Airlines are also adding flights to the airport. Air Berlin will offer flights from Dusseldorf beginning Nov. 12, and JetBlue will begin servicing the airport for the first time on Nov. 17, with flights from New York.

In the new terminal, outgoing passengers will enter the airport from the northern façade, which features 30 new check-in counters, a mini-market, a Lafise bank kiosk and a money-changing station. After showing travel documents and boarding passes to airport security, travelers will go through a security barrier that is much wider than the current one. The new checkpoint is equipped with high-caliber equipment, including five state-of-the-art X-ray machines and three metal detectors.   

For an extra fee, travelers can access a new lounge with free wireless Internet, a relaxation area and a kids’ corner. Paid wireless Internet will also be available throughout the building.

Second-floor businesses include a money-changing station, Café Players restaurant, and several commercial shopping spaces, including a duty free store, Café Britt, Bertero jewelry and Red Global Oak Art Gallery.

Cordero said the airport addition will make the process of entering the country seamless and expedient. A spacious aisle corridor running the length of the building prevents incoming and outgoing passengers from intermixing, although they can still see each other through plate glass.

An air-conditioned immigration area is located downstairs, where 17 agents will be on-staff to usher visitors in and out of checkpoints. Luggage will be collected in the next room from two baggage claim carousels. From there, bags will be screened for food and prohibited agricultural products. One more stop at customs and passengers are out the door.  

According to Cordero, the enhancements to the airport will incur a slight price increase for passengers.

“There will be some price increases, largely because of incremental increases in aeronautical fees [fees managed by the Civil Aviation Authority] for all [Costa Rican] airports,” he said.

“We’re confident that the new [terminal] will change for the better the way both national and international passengers come in and go out of Guanacaste,” Cordero said.

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