Juan Santamaría International Airport

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Juan Santamaría International Airport

Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría
SJO Airport Logo.png
Aeropuerto Juan Santamaria terminal internacional.jpg
Airport typePublic
OwnerGovernment of Costa Rica
OperatorAeris Holdings Costa Rica under ADC & HAS and Andrade Gutiérrez Concesores
ServesSan José, Costa Rica
LocationAlajuela Province, Costa Rica
Hub for
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL921 m / 3,022 ft
Coordinates09°59′38″N 084°12′32″W / 9.99389°N 84.20889°W / 9.99389; -84.20889Coordinates: 09°59′38″N 084°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 (2019)
Passenger change 18–19Increase5.9%
Aircraft movements84,790
Movements change 18–19Increase7.5%
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 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 courageous drummer boy who died in 1856 defending his country against forces led by US-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[3]


The airport was built to replace the previous one in downtown San Jose where Parque La Sabana is located today.[4] Funding was secured by the government in 1951[5] and construction proceed slowly until it was officially inaugurated on May 2, 1958.[6] 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.[7]

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-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.


Terminal building and control tower.

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.[8] 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.[9] After that mission was completed, the hangar was removed.[10]

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 American Airlines and jetBlue and the largest european airline at the airport is Iberia which is the only european airline that flies daily from Madrid to San José using and 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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[6] 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.[13] In December 2009, Alterra Partners changed its name to AERIS Holdings, S.A.[13] In November 2010, Aeris announced it had finished the expansion and construction of new facilities with the installation of the 9th boarding bridge.[14]

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).[15]

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.
Aeroméxico Mexico City
Air Canada Rouge Toronto–Pearson
Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau
Air France Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Air Panama David, Panama City–Albrook
Air Transat Seasonal: Liberia (CR) a, Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson, Vancouver a
Alaska Airlines Los Angeles
Albatros Airlines Caracas
American AirlinesCharlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, New York–JFK
Seasonal: Phoenix–Sky Harbor
Avianca Costa RicaBogotá, Cancúnb, Guatemala City, Lima, Managua, Panama City–Tocumen, San Salvador, Santiago
Avianca El SalvadorSan Salvador
Avianca GuatemalaGuatemala Cityh, Los Angelesh
British AirwaysLondon Gatwick
CondorFrankfurt, Santo Domingo-Las Américasc (suspended)
Costa Rica Green Airways Quepos, Tambor
Copa AirlinesGuatemala City, Managua, Panama City–Tocumen, Tegucigalpa
Copa Airlines ColombiaPanama City–Tocumen
Delta Air LinesAtlanta, Los Angeles
Edelweiss AirZürich
InterjetMexico City
JetBlueFort Lauderdale, New York–JFK, Los Angeles (begins December 18, 2020),[16] Orlando
KLMSeasonal: Amsterdam
LATAM PerúLima
Sansa AirlinesCosta Esmeralda, Coto 47, Drake Bay, Golfito, La Fortuna/San Carlos, Liberia, Limón, Nosara Beach, Palmar Sur, Pérez Zeledón, Puerto Jiménez, Quepos, Tamarindo, Tambor, Tortuguero
Southwest Airlines Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Hobby
Seasonal: Baltimore
Spirit AirlinesFort Lauderdale, Orlando
United AirlinesHouston–Intercontinental, Los Angeles (begins December 17, 2020),[17] Newark
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare, Denver (begins December 17, 2020),[17] Washington–Dulles
Viva Aerobus Seasonal: Cancún
Volaris Costa RicaCancún, Guatemala City, Los Angelesd, Mexico Citye, New York–JFKf, San Salvador, Washington–Dullesg (all resume November 23, 2020)[18]
Wingo Bogotá


^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 Avianca Costa Rica flight to Cancún makes a stop in San Salvador, El Salvador. They have fifth freedom rights to transport passengers between San Salvador and Cancún.

^c Condor flies to San José, Costa Rica via Santo Domingo-Las Américas, Dominican Republic with a Boeing 767-300ER, however this is going to change, as Condor announced non-stop direct flight to San José from October, 2020 permanently eliminating the stop in Santo Domingo.

^d 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.

^e Volaris Costa Rica flies to Mexico City non-stop but also has flight via Guatemala City. They have fifth freedom rights to transport passengers solely between Guatemala City and Mexico City.

^f Volaris Costa Rica flies to New York-JFK via San Salvador. They have fifth freedom rights to transport passengers solely between San Salvador and New York.

^g Volaris Costa Rica flies to Washington–Dulles via San Salvador. They have fifth freedom rights to transport passengers solely between San Salvador and Washington.

^h One of the daily flights of Avianca Guatemala from and to San José originates and ends in Los Angeles.

Departures hall


ABX Air Guatemala City
Avianca Cargo Miami
DHL Aviation Miami, Los Angeles, Panama City-Tocumen
DHL de Guatemala Guatemala City
FedEx Express Memphis, Panama City-Tocumen
LATAM Cargo Brasil Miami
LATAM Cargo Chile Miami
Mas Air Mexico City
UPS Airlines Miami
Terminal facade


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 2018. Traffic movements reached its highest number in 2017, while freight (in metric tons) reached a peak in 2011, with 98,609 tons.

SJO passenger totals, 2000–2019 (millions)
Source: DGAC
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
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 2014-2015 Carriers
1 Panama City, Panama1 405,608 415,602 821,210 Decrease00.62% Air Panama, Avianca, Copa
2 Houston, United States2 211,017 204,318 415,335 Increase08.89% Southwest, United
3 Mexico City, Mexico 189,358 191,635 380,993 Increase016.67% Aeroméxico, Interjet, Volaris
4 Fort Lauderdale, United States 188,381 188,457 376,838 Increase017.51% Jetblue, Southwest, Spirit
5 San Salvador, El Salvador 182,658 185,483 368,141 Decrease01.68% Avianca, Volaris
6 Miami, United States 146,658 149,607 296,265 Decrease01.00% American
7 Atlanta, United States 127,362 128,674 256,036 Increase07.45% Delta
8 Guatemala City, Guatemala 126,354 123,937 250,291 Decrease017.06% Avianca, Copa, Volaris
9 Bogotá, Colombia 109,184 108,389 217,573 Increase06.48% Avianca, Wingo
10 Madrid, Spain 96,489 101,827 198,316 Increase02.03% Iberia
11 Los Angeles, United States 90,317 86,237 176,554 Increase035.57% Alaska, Delta
12 Newark, United States 91,460 83,374 174,834 Increase02.16% United
13 Lima, Perú 68,203 72,427 140,630 Increase076.71% LATAM, Avianca
14 Orlando, United States 53,046 54,702 107,748 Increase05.96% Jetblue, Spirit
15 Dallas, United States 51,585 53,735 105,320 Decrease02.90% American
16 Toronto, Canada 51,136 46,897 98,033 Increase08.79% Air Canada, Air Transat, WestJet
17 Paris, France 47,348 46,619 93,967 Increase0290.75% Air France
18 Managua, Nicaragua 44,560 46,125 90,685 Decrease041.84% Copa
19 Frankfurt, Germany 40,980 42,908 83,8883 Increase0103.89% Lufthansa, Condor
20 Cancún, Mexico 32,461 33,403 65,864 Increase035.78% Viva Aerobus, Volaris,
21 Zurich, Switzerland 31,959 32,244 64,203 Increase075.42% Edelweiss
22 London, United Kingdom 26,996 27,620 54,616 Decrease00.76% British Airways
23 Charlotte, United States 27,183 24,233 51,416 Decrease02.00% American
24 Tegucigalpa, Honduras 26,578 19,771 46,349 Increase00.09% Avianca, Copa
25 Amsterdam, Netherlands 16,756 15,166 31,922 Increase0554.01% KLM
Source: Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Air Transportation Statistical Yearbook (Years 2017,[19] and 2018[20]).

^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 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 take off from Juan Santamaria International Airport. All 20 passengers and 3 crew on board died in the crash.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ AIP - Part 3 Aerodromes Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ (in Spanish) Resumen Estadístico del Transporte Aéreo 2019. Archived 2018-04-13 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "ASQ Award for Best Airport in Latin America - Caribbean" Archived 2012-02-18 at the Wayback Machine Airports Council International. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-13
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "VIP Services - Juan Santamaría International Airport". sjoairport.com. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  16. ^ "JetBlue Adds Two Dozen New Routes in Markets with Strengthened Demand Potential". JetBlue. September 2020. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  17. ^ a b "United Airlines Announces Eight New Routes and Increases Flights to 19 Destinations in the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico for Winter Sun-Seekers". United Airlines. October 2020. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  18. ^ "Volaris will fly again in Central America". estrategiaynegocios.net (in Spanish). October 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  19. ^ Anuario Estadístico de Transporte Aéreo 2017. Dirección General de Aviación Civil de Costa Rica
  20. ^ Anuario Estadístico de Transporte Aéreo 2018. Dirección General de Aviación Civil de Costa Rica

External links[edit]

Media related to Juan Santamaría International Airport at Wikimedia Commons