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Juan Santamaría International Airport

Coordinates: 9°59′38″N 84°12′32″W / 9.99389°N 84.20889°W / 9.99389; -84.20889
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Juan Santamaría International Airport

Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría
Airport typePublic
OwnerGovernment of Costa Rica
OperatorAeris Holdings Costa Rica under CCR S.A.
ServesSan José, Costa Rica
LocationAlajuela Province, Costa Rica
OpenedMay 2, 1958; 66 years ago (1958-05-02)
Hub for
Focus city for
Operating base forVolaris Costa Rica
Elevation AMSL921 m / 3,022 ft
Coordinates9°59′38″N 84°12′32″W / 9.99389°N 84.20889°W / 9.99389; -84.20889
SJO is located in Costa Rica
Location in Costa Rica
Direction Length Surface
m ft
07/25 3,012 9,882 Asphalt
Statistics (2023)
Total Passengers5,682,476
Aircraft movements86,762
Source: Costa Rican AIP,[1] DGAC[2]

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 Alajuela Province, 20 kilometres (12 mi; 11 nmi) northwest 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 William Walker, an American filibuster. It is the biggest and busiest airport in Costa Rica and second in Central America with more than 5 million passengers per year before COVID.

The airport is a hub for Avianca Costa Rica, Costa Rica Green Airways, Sansa Airlines, and Volaris Costa Rica and a focus city for Avianca El Salvador and Copa Airlines. It was the country's only international gateway for many years, before the opening of the international airport in Liberia, Guanacaste. Both airports have direct flights to North and Central America and Europe, but 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 is currently second after Tocumen International Airport in Panama. In 2022, Juan Santamaría International Airport received 5 million passengers (international and domestic).


The airport was built to replace the previous one in downtown San Jose where Parque La Sabana is located today.[3] Funding was secured by the government in 1951[4] and construction proceeded slowly until the airport was officially inaugurated on May 2, 1958.[5] It was initially called "Aeropuerto Internacional el Coco" after its location of the same name in the province of Alajuela. It was later renamed in honor of Juan Santamaría. In 1961, funding was secured to build the highway connecting the airport to downtown San José.[6]

Ground transportation[edit]

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-hour bus service and approximately one service every 10 minutes during working hours). Licensed taxis are available in the airport and will generally accept both colónes 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.


Terminal building and control tower.

The airport's sole runway allows operations of large wide-body 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.[7] 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.[8] After that mission was completed, the hangar was removed.[9]

Interior of the check-in hall

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 jetBlue and United Airlines, and the largest European airline at the airport is Iberia which is the only European airline that flies daily all year long between Europe and San José from their base at Madrid airport using an Airbus A330-200 combined with the Airbus A350-900XWB (especially 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.[10] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[5] 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.[12] In December 2009, Alterra Partners changed its name to AERIS Holdings, S.A.[12] In November 2010, Aeris announced it had finished the expansion and construction of new facilities with the installation of the 9th boarding bridge.[13]

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).[14]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

The following airlines have scheduled direct services to and/or from Juan Santamaría International Airport:


Current domestic routes from SJO
Current American routes from SJO
Current European routes from SJO
AeroméxicoMexico City
Air CanadaMontréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson
Air FranceParis–Charles de Gaulle
Air TransatSeasonal: Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson
Alaska AirlinesLos Angeles
American AirlinesCharlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
Arajet Santo Domingo–Las Américas
Avianca Costa RicaBogotá, Cancún, Cartagena, Guatemala City, Managua (suspended), Medellín–JMC, Mexico City,[15] New York–JFK, Panama City–Tocumen (suspended), Quito,[16] San Salvador, Washington–Dulles[17]
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare,[18] San Pedro Sula[18]
Avianca El SalvadorSan Salvador
British AirwaysSeasonal: London–Gatwick
Copa AirlinesGuatemala City, Managua, Panama City–Tocumen
Costa Rica Green AirwaysQuepos, Tambor
Delta Air LinesAtlanta, Los Angeles
Edelweiss AirZürich
Frontier Airlines Atlanta[19]
Seasonal: Miami
Gol Linhas AéreasSão Paulo–Guarulhos (begins November 12, 2024)[20]
JetBlueFort Lauderdale, New York–JFK, Orlando
KLMSeasonal: Amsterdam
LATAM PerúLima
Sansa AirlinesCosta Esmeralda, Coto 47, Drake Bay, Golfito, La Fortuna/San Carlos, Liberia (CR), Limón, Nosara Beach, Palmar Sur, Pérez Zeledón, Puerto Jiménez, Quepos, Tamarindo, Tambor, Tortuguero
Southwest AirlinesBaltimore, Houston–Hobby, Orlando[22]
Seasonal: Denver
Spirit AirlinesFort Lauderdale, Houston–Intercontinental,[23] Orlando
United AirlinesHouston–Intercontinental, Newark
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Los Angeles, Washington–Dulles
Volaris Costa RicaCancún, Guadalajara (begins October 29, 2024),[24] Guatemala City, Lima,[25] Mexico City,a New York–JFK,b San Salvador, Washington–Dulles
Volaris El SalvadorSan Salvador (begins July 2, 2024)[26]
WingoBogotá, Panama City–Balboa[27]


Departures hall
Terminal facade


ABX Air Panama City–Tocumen
AerCaribe Panama City–Tocumen
AeroUnion Miami, Guatemala City, Mexico City–AIFA
Amerijet International Miami
Avianca Cargo Miami
CargoJet Miami
DHL Aero Expreso Miami, Panama City–Tocumen
DHL de Guatemala Guatemala City
FedEx Express Aguadilla, Memphis
La Costeña Managua
LATAM Cargo Colombia Miami, Guatemala City
Mas Air Mexico City–AIFA, Quito
UPS Airlines Miami

Former destinations and/or airlines[edit]

These airlines used to operate at Juan Santamaría Airport; however, they either do not exist anymore, have discontinued their services to the airport, have canceled previously served destinations or were merged into a different airline.

Aeroméxico ConnectMexico City
Air Canada RougeMontréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson
Air CaraïbesPointe-à-Pitre via Panama City–Tocumen
Air MadridMadrid
Air PanamaDavid, Panama City–Albrook
Air TransatVancouver
American AirlinesChicago–O'Hare, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York–JFK, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
Avianca Costa RicaBrasília, Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Caracas, Guayaquil, Havana, Lima, Orlando, Rio de Janeiro-Galeão, San Juan, Santiago de Chile, Santo Domingo, Tegucigalpa
Avianca PerúLima
CondorFrankfurt via Santo Domingo–Las Américas, Munich via Punta Cana
Cubana de AviaciónHavana
Ecuatoriana de AviaciónQuito
InterjetMexico City
JetBlueLos Angeles
Mexicana de AviaciónMexico City
Nicaragüense de AviaciónManagua
Southwest AirlinesFort Lauderdale
US AirwaysCharlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
Veca AirlinesSan Salvador
Volaris Costa RicaManagua
WingoPanama City–Tocumen


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 2022, with 101,120 tons.

Annual passenger traffic at SJO airport. See Wikidata query.
Number of passengers Percentage change Number of movements Freight (tonnes)
1960 209,624
1965 216,162 Increase09.6% 14,827 9,839
1970 381,278 Increase016.3% 28,673 19,808
1975 759,098 Increase018.1% 33,417 21,727
1980 658,154 Decrease02.5% 33,013 21,712
1985 617,474 Increase00.3% 24,990 27,282
1990 987,870 Increase010.8% 35,569 72,419
1995 1,839,175 Increase03.8% 52,402 88,249
2000 2,160,869 Decrease04.3% 72,428 77,137
2005 3,243,440 Increase012.2% 72,131 64,338
2010 4,257,606 Increase05.0% 87,384 85,164
2011 3,857,588 Decrease09.4% 72,674 98,609
2012 3,872,467 Increase00.4% 67,002 94,775
2013 3,797,616 Decrease01.9% 62,598 85,022
2014 3,917,573 Increase03.2% 73,307 86,741
2015 4,494,875 Increase014.7% 82,835 75,329
2016 4,595,355 Increase02.2% 85,731 73,633
2017 5,092,060 Increase010.8% 90,044 82,712
2018 5,230,382 Increase02.7% 78,897 91,152
2019 5,541,577 Increase05.9% 84,790 92,072
2020 1,648,408 Decrease070.3% 37,262 75,607
2021 3,063,086 Increase085.8% 65,162 94,002
2022 5,010,949 Increase063.6% 86,762 101,120
2023 5,682,476 Increase013.4% 86,762
Source: Directorate General of Civil Aviation of Costa Rica

Top international destinations[edit]

Busiest international routes to and from SJO (Jan. 2018 – Dec. 2018)
Airport Arrivals Departures Total 2018-2019 Carriers
1 Panama Panama City1 405,608 415,602 821,210 Decrease00.62% Air Panama, Avianca, Copa
2 United States Houston2 211,017 204,318 415,335 Increase08.89% Southwest, United
3 Mexico Mexico City, Mexico 189,358 191,635 380,993 Increase016.67% Aeroméxico, Interjet, Volaris
4 United States Fort Lauderdale 188,381 188,457 376,838 Increase017.51% Jetblue, Southwest, Spirit
5 El Salvador San Salvador 182,658 185,483 368,141 Decrease01.68% Avianca, Volaris
6 United States Miami 146,658 149,607 296,265 Decrease01.00% American, Avianca, Frontier
7 United States Atlanta 127,362 128,674 256,036 Increase07.45% Delta
8 Guatemala Guatemala City 126,354 123,937 250,291 Decrease017.06% Avianca, Copa, Volaris
9 Colombia Bogotá 109,184 108,389 217,573 Increase06.48% Avianca, Wingo
10 Spain Madrid 96,489 101,827 198,316 Increase02.03% Iberia, Iberojet
11 United States Los Angeles 90,317 86,237 176,554 Increase035.57% Alaska, Delta
12 United States Newark 91,460 83,374 174,834 Increase02.16% United
13 Peru Lima 68,203 72,427 140,630 Increase076.71% LATAM, Avianca
14 United States Orlando 53,046 54,702 107,748 Increase05.96% Jetblue, Spirit, Frontier
15 United States Dallas/Fort Worth 51,585 53,735 105,320 Decrease02.90% American
16 Canada Toronto–Pearson 51,136 46,897 98,033 Increase08.79% Air Canada, Air Transat, WestJet
17 France Paris–Charles de Gaulle 47,348 46,619 93,967 Increase0290.75% Air France
18 Nicaragua Managua 44,560 46,125 90,685 Decrease041.84% Copa
19 Germany Frankfurt3 40,980 42,908 83,888 Increase0103.89% Lufthansa, Condor
20 Mexico Cancún 32,461 33,403 65,864 Increase035.78% Viva Aerobus, Volaris
21 Switzerland Zürich 31,959 32,244 64,203 Increase075.42% Edelweiss
22 United Kingdom London–Gatwick 26,996 27,620 54,616 Decrease00.76% British Airways
23 United States Charlotte 27,183 24,233 51,416 Decrease02.00% American
24 Honduras Tegucigalpa 26,578 19,771 46,349 Increase00.09% Avianca, Copa
25 Netherlands Amsterdam 16,756 15,166 31,922 Increase0554.01% KLM
Source: Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Air Transportation Statistical Yearbook (Years 2017,[28] and 2018[29]).

^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.
^2 United and Spirit fly to Houston-Intercontinental Airport, and Southwest flies to Houston-Hobby Airport. The data here is for traffic between SJO and all airports in Houston.
^3 Includes passengers to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The German airline Condor flies between San José and Frankfurt making a stopover in Santo Domingo, and the airline has the right to transport passengers between SJO and SDQ and vice versa only. However, the data about passengers flying to and arriving from Santo Domingo only are not defined by the DGAC, and not comparable yearly. Also, Lufthansa started to fly directly from FRA to SJO and return on March 29, 2018.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On August 20, 1977, a Monarch Aviation Convair CV-880 struck trees and crashed 2.5 km (1.6 mi) southeast of SJO shortly after takeoff probably because the aircraft was overweight with cargo. All 3 occupants died.[30]
  • 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.[31]
  • 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 on board died 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.[32]
  • 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.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ AIP - Part 3 Aerodromes Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ (in Spanish) Anuario Estadístico de Transporte Aéreo 2022.
  3. ^ Calvo, Rodrigo (2011-03-27). "Los mil rostros de La Sabana". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2011-04-04. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
  4. ^ "En primber debate fueron aprobados el Arancel de Aduanas y la Ley de Pagos Internacionales". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. 1951-11-26. Archived from the original on 2016-01-22. Retrieved 2015-12-26.
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ "Hace 50 años, Sábado 11 de marzo de 1961". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. 2011-03-11. Archived from the original on 2011-10-07. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
  7. ^ Delgado, Edgar (1999-01-28). "Concorde impuso récord". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  8. ^ Ponchner, Debbie (2005-07-02). "Hoy despega de suelo tico la misión TCSP de la NASA". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  9. ^ Ponchner, Debbie (2007-05-05). "NASA realizará gran misión científica desde suelo tico". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  10. ^ a b 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ a b 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "VIP Services - Juan Santamaría International Airport". sjoairport.com. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  15. ^ "Avianca will connect San José and Mexico City nonstop starting in December". LaRepública.net (in Spanish). September 2021. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ "South American carrier ups its presence at Dulles Airport". 16 July 2022.
  18. ^ a b "AVIANCA COSTA RICA RESUMES 2 US ROUTES FROM DEC 2023". Aeroroutes. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  19. ^ "Frontier Airlines More Than Doubles Its International Destinations from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport".
  20. ^ "GOL Adds 2 International Routes in NW24". Aeroroutes. Retrieved 10 June 2024.
  21. ^ "Evelop will have flights between Madrid and San José (Costa Rica) during the summer". Aviacionline (in Spanish). May 2021. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  22. ^ "Southwest Just Added New Routes to the Caribbean, Mexico, and More".
  23. ^ "Spirit Airlines Spring 2024 Domestic Routes Addition Summary – 21JAN24". Aeroroutes. Retrieved 23 January 2024.
  24. ^ "Volaris Costa Rica Plans Guadalajara Service in NW24". Aeroroutes. Retrieved 10 June 2024.
  25. ^ "Volaris Inició Venta Lima-San José". T News. 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2022-03-21.
  26. ^ "Volaris El Salvador Adds San Jose (Costa Rica) Service From July 2024". Aeroroutes. Retrieved 10 April 2024.
  27. ^ "Wingo announces 4 new international routes". Aviaciononline.com (in Spanish). May 2021. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  28. ^ Anuario Estadístico de Transporte Aéreo 2017. Dirección General de Aviación Civil de Costa Rica
  29. ^ Anuario Estadístico de Transporte Aéreo 2018. Dirección General de Aviación Civil de Costa Rica
  30. ^ Accident description for N8817E at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on October 12, 2023.
  31. ^ Accident description for TI-LRC at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on October 12, 2023.
  32. ^ Accident description for N726JR at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on October 12, 2023.
  33. ^ 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.

External links[edit]

Media related to Juan Santamaría International Airport at Wikimedia Commons