Juan Santamaría International Airport
Juan Santamaría International Airport
Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría
|Owner||Government of Costa Rica|
|Operator||Aeris Holdings Costa Rica under CCR S.A.|
|Serves||San José, Costa Rica|
|Location||Alajuela Province, Costa Rica|
|Focus city for|
|Elevation AMSL||921 m / 3,022 ft|
Juan Santamaría International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría) (IATA: SJO, ICAO: MROC) is the primary airport serving San José, the capital of Costa Rica. The airport is located in the city of Alajuela, 20 km (12 miles) west of downtown San José. It is named after Costa Rica's national hero, Juan Santamaría, a drummer boy who died in 1856 defending his country against forces led by American filibuster William Walker.
The airport is a hub for Avianca Costa Rica, Costa Rica Green Airways, Sansa Airlines and Volaris Costa Rica, and a focus city for Copa Airlines. It was the country's only international gateway for many years, but nowadays there is also an international airport in Liberia, Guanacaste. Both airports have direct flights to North and Central America and Europe, with the difference that Juan Santamaría International Airport also serves cities in South America and the Caribbean.
Juan Santamaría International Airport was once the busiest airport in Central America, but currently it is ranked second after Tocumen International Airport in Panamá. In 2016, Juan Santamaría International Airport received 4.6 million passengers (both international and domestic). In 2011, the airport was named the 3rd Best Airport in Latin America - Caribbean from the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International.
The airport was built to replace the previous one in downtown San Jose where Parque La Sabana is located today. Funding was secured by the government in 1951 and construction proceed slowly until it was officially inaugurated on May 2, 1958. It was initially called "Aeropuerto Internacional el Coco" after its location of the same name in the province of Alajuela. It would later be renamed in honor of Juan Santamaría. In 1961, funding was secured to build the highway that connects the airport to downtown San José.
The road access to the airport is on an exit at Route 1, and near the exit to Alajuela. There is a parking area with surcharge, plus a bus stop with plenty of services to San Jose downtown (with no exact schedule but with 24-hours bus service and approximately one service every 10 minutes during working hours). Licensed taxis are available in the airport and will generally accept both colones and U.S. dollars, but not other currencies. Costa Rican taxis are red with yellow triangles on the doors, ubiquitous all over the country, plus there is a special airport taxi service that is licensed and employs orange taxis. While the rail line linking downtown Alajuela with San José's Atlantic Station passes in close proximity to the airport, there is no station serving the airport and no rail service of any kind to the airport.
The airport's sole runway allows operations of large widebody aircraft. Currently, some scheduled flights are operated with Airbus A330, A340 and A350, and Boeing 747, 767, 777 and 787, for both passengers and freight. A Concorde landed in 1999 for that year's airshow. Previously, the airport had a small hangar, called the "NASA" hangar, to house research aircraft, like the Martin B-57 Canberra high altitude aircraft, that were being operated in Costa Rica. After that mission was completed, the hangar was removed.
Internationally the largest operator in the airport is Avianca and all their branches, followed by Copa Airlines which uses the Main Terminal (M), domestically the largest airline is Sansa Airlines and their flights depart from the Domestic Terminal (D). The largest US airlines at the airport by number of destinations served all year-long are American Airlines and jetBlue and the largest European airline at the airport is Iberia which is the only European airline that flies daily between Europe and San José from their base Madrid airport using an Airbus A330-200 combined with the Airbus A350-900XWB (specially in European winter season).
No major changes were made to the terminal until November 1997 when the government issued a decree requesting participation of private companies to manage the operations of the airport. After a few years of legal challenges and contract negotiations, Alterra Partners was given a 20-year concession and started managing the facilities in May 2001. It was also expected that the company would finish the necessary expansion and construction of new facilities, however in March 2002, Alterra announced it would cease any further construction due to disagreements over financing and airport use fee billing with the government. The dispute was extended for a few years and problems started at the terminal; in 2005, the International Civil Aviation Organization pointed out that the airport did not comply with safety regulations. In July 2009, Alterra yielded the contract to a consortium composed of Houston-based Canadian-American company ADC & HAS and the Brazilian company, Andrade Gutierrez Concessoes (AGC) - subsidiary of the conglomerate Andrade Gutierrez. In December 2009, Alterra Partners changed its name to AERIS Holdings, S.A. In November 2010, Aeris announced it had finished the expansion and construction of new facilities with the installation of the 9th boarding bridge.
The airport houses three business lounges for both special card holders and business class travellers; Avianca Club, Copa Club and VIP Lounge (for BAC Credomatic customers).
Airlines and destinations
The following airlines have scheduled direct services to and/or from Juan Santamaría International Airport:
^a Air Transat flies the A321LR from Vancouver to San José and then flies back with a stop-over in Liberia, where passengers that originated in Vancouver also disembark and passengers flying to Vancouver embark; however, the airline does not have eighth freedom rights to solely transport passengers between San José and Liberia due to Costa Rica government regulations.
^b Volaris Costa Rica flies to Los Angeles via San Salvador and some days even via Guatemala City. They have fifth freedom rights to transport passengers solely between San Salvador and Los Angeles, San Salvador to Guatemala City and Guatemala City to Los Angeles.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2018)
Juan Santamaria International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in Costa Rica, having experienced a constant increase in traffic since its opening in 1958, boosted by the growing flow of tourists. The airport reached more than one million passengers per year for the first time in 1991 and having a record number of passengers in 2019. Traffic movements reached its highest number in 2017, while freight (in metric tons) reached a peak in 2011, with 98,609 tons.
|Number of passengers||Percentage change||Number of movements||Freight (tonnes)|
|Source: Directorate General of Civil Aviation of Costa Rica|
Top international destinations
|1||Panama City1||405,608||415,602||821,210||0.62%||Air Panama, Avianca, Copa|
|3||Mexico City, Mexico||189,358||191,635||380,993||16.67%||Aeroméxico, Interjet, Volaris|
|4||Fort Lauderdale||188,381||188,457||376,838||17.51%||Jetblue, Southwest, Spirit|
|5||San Salvador||182,658||185,483||368,141||1.68%||Avianca, Volaris|
|6||Miami||146,658||149,607||296,265||1.00%||American, Avianca, Frontier|
|8||Guatemala City||126,354||123,937||250,291||17.06%||Avianca, Copa, Volaris|
|11||Los Angeles||90,317||86,237||176,554||35.57%||Alaska, Delta|
|14||Orlando||53,046||54,702||107,748||5.96%||Jetblue, Spirit, Frontier|
|16||Toronto–Pearson||51,136||46,897||98,033||8.79%||Air Canada, Air Transat, WestJet|
|17||Paris–Charles de Gaulle||47,348||46,619||93,967||290.75%||Air France|
|20||Cancún||32,461||33,403||65,864||35.78%||Viva Aerobus, Volaris,|
|Source: Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Air Transportation Statistical Yearbook (Years 2017, and 2018).|
^1 Avianca and Copa fly to Panama City-Tocumen Airport, and Air Panama flies to Panama City-Albrook Airport. The data here is for traffic between SJO and all airports in Panama City.
Accidents and incidents
- On May 23, 1988, a leased Boeing 727-100 (TI-LRC) operating the route San Jose-Managua-Miami, collided with a fence at the end of the runway in the Juan Santamaria International Airport, crashed at a nearby field next to a highway, and caught fire. The excess of weight in the front part of the airplane was the cause of the accident. There were no fatalities out of the 23 occupants.
- On January 16, 1990, SANSA Flight 32 crashed into the Cerro Cedral, a mountain, shortly after takeoff from Juan Santamaria International Airport. All 20 passengers and 3 crew onboard perished in the crash.
- On September 3, 2007, a North American Rockwell Sabreliner 70 registration N726JR aborted the takeoff from runway 07. The airplane ran off the right side of the runway into the grass. The landing gear collapsed as the plane skidded and turned 180 degrees. The aircraft was written off.
- On April 7, 2022, DHL Aero Expreso Flight 7216, a Boeing 757-27A operated by DHL Aviation en route to Guatemala City skidded off the runway while performing an emergency landing due to a hydraulic problem. The aircraft was written off because the tail section broke off, however there was no fire or injuries reported.
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- Rojas, Ronny (2008-07-09). "El Santamaría incumple normas de seguridad". Al Dia (in Spanish). Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2008-09-17. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
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- Feigenblatt, Hazel (2001-05-05). "Aeropuerto a manos privadas hoy". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
- Loaiza, Vanessa (2002-03-15). "Suspenden obras en aeropuerto". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
- Loaiza, Vanessa (2009-12-04). "BID presta $45 millones para ampliar Juan Santamaría". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
- Loaiza, Vanessa (2010-11-10). "Concluye modernización de aeropuerto Santamaría". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2010-11-14. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
- "VIP Services - Juan Santamaría International Airport". sjoairport.com. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
- "American Airlines to fly between Chicago and Costa Rica". 20 August 2021.
- "Avianca strengthens connectivity from Central America with the operation of routes to the United States". Periódico Digital (in Spanish). September 2021. Retrieved September 8, 2021.
- "Avianca will connect San José and Mexico City nonstop starting in December". LaRepública.net (in Spanish). September 2021. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
- "Evelop will have flights between Madrid and San José (Costa Rica) during the summer". Aviacionline (in Spanish). May 2021. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
- "Volaris Costa Rica tendrá vuelos a Bogotá". 20 April 2022.
- "Volaris Inició Venta Lima-San José". T News. 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2022-03-21.
- "Wingo announces 4 new international routes". Aviaciononline.com (in Spanish). May 2021. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
- Anuario Estadístico de Transporte Aéreo 2017. Dirección General de Aviación Civil de Costa Rica
- Anuario Estadístico de Transporte Aéreo 2018. Dirección General de Aviación Civil de Costa Rica
- Noëth, Bart (2022-04-07). "DHL Aero Expreso Boeing 757 freighter exits runway and breaks into pieces at San Jose, Costa Rica". Aviation24.be. Retrieved 2022-04-07.
Media related to Juan Santamaría International Airport at Wikimedia Commons