Juan Santamaría International Airport

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Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO)
Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría
Airport type Public
Owner Government of Costa Rica
Operator Aeris Holdings Costa Rica under ADC & HAS and Andrade Gutiérrez Concesores
Serves San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago
Location Alajuela Province
Hub for
Focus city for
Elevation AMSL 921 m / 3,022 ft
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Website www.fly2sanjose.com
MROC is located in Costa Rica
Location in Costa Rica
Direction Length Surface
m ft
07/25 3,012 9,882 Asphalt
Statistics (2010)
Passengers 4,257,606
Source: Costa Rican AIP[1]

Juan Santamaría International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría) (IATA: SJOICAO: MROC) is the primary airport serving San José, the capital of Costa Rica. The airport is located near 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 hub of local airline Nature Air and Sansa Airlines, and focus city airport for Copa Airlines and Avianca. 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.

The airport's main runway allows for operations of large, widebody aircraft. Currently, some scheduled flights are operated with Airbus A330 and A340, and Boeing 747 and 767, for both passengers and freight. A Concorde landed in 1999 for that year's airshow.[2] The airport has also a small hangar (called the "NASA" hangar) where research aircraft are kept that operate in Costa Rica[3] including the Martin B-57 Canberra high altitude aircraft. (This hangar has since been removed as the mission was completed.)[4]

Juan Santamaría International Airport was once the busiest airport in Central America, but currently (2013) it is ranked second after Tocumen International Airport in Panamá. In 2010, Juan Santamaría International Airport received 4.3 million passengers, most of them from international flights. In 2011, the airport was named the 3rd Best Airport in Latin America - Caribbean from the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International[5]

Only passengers with a confirmed reservation and boarding passes are allowed to enter the terminal.


The airport was built to replace the previous one in downtown San Jose where Parque La Sabana is located today.[6] Funding was secured by the government in 1951 [7] and construction proceed slowly until it was officially inaugurated on May 2, 1958.[8] 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.[9]

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.[8]

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]

Passenger, aircraft and cargo traffic results

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 the million passenger for the first time in 1991 and it has been serving more than four million passengers yearly since 2007. On the other hand, domestic passenger have been relatively steady since the beginning, on an average of 200,000 passengers per year and reaching a peak of 330,000 in 1975.

VIP lounges

  • VIP Santamaría (Shared Avianca/Credomatic VIP)
  • Copa Club

Ground transportation

There is a bus stop outside the airport for the Alajuela - San José and Alajuela - Heredia route in both directions.[14] Buses from other routes also stop there, however, visiting tourists not staying in the immediate downtown San José area are recommended[by whom?] not to attempt to figure out the bus system without fluent Spanish. It is better to arrange private meet and greet and transfer service which is easily done through a variety of transportation companies that service all areas of Costa Rica. The cost of a nice comfortable private van is usually the same as a regular taxi.

Licensed taxis are available in the airport and will generally accept both colones and U.S. dollars, but not other currencies. Licensed taxis are red with yellow triangles on the doors, additionally there is an airport taxi service that is licensed and employs orange taxis.



Main Terminal [M]

The major operator in the airport is Avianca, followed by Copa Airlines. The following airlines have scheduled direct services to and/or from Juan Santamaría International Airport (as of May 2013):

Domestic Terminal [D]

Sansa Airlines flights depart from the Domestic Terminal.

Airlines and destinations


Airlines Destinations Terminal
Aeroméxico Mexico City M
Air Canada Rouge Toronto–Pearson M
Air Panama David, Panama City-Albrook M
Air Transat Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson M
Alaska Airlines Los Angeles M
American Airlines Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
Seasonal: New York–JFK, Phoenix
Avianca Costa Rica Bogotá, Guatemala City, Lima, Managua, Panama City, San Salvador
Seasonal: Cancún
Avianca Guatemala Guatemala City, San Andrés, Tegucigalpa M
British Airways London-Gatwick (begins 27 April 2016)[16] M
Condor Frankfurt, Santo Domingo M
Copa Airlines Guatemala City, Managua, Panama City, Tegucigalpa M
Copa Airlines Colombia Guatemala City, Panama City M
Cubana de Aviación Havana M
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Los Angeles
Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK
Iberia Madrid M
Interjet Mexico City M
JetBlue Airways Fort Lauderdale, Orlando M
Nature Air Bocas del Toro, Drake Bay, Golfito, La Fortuna, Liberia, Limón, Managua, Nosara, Puerto Jimenez, Punta Islita, Quepos, Tamarindo, Tambor, Tortuguero M
Sansa Airlines Costa Esmeralda, Drake Bay, Golfito, La Fortuna, Liberia, Limón, Palmar Sur, Puerto Jimenez, Quepos, San Isidro, Tamarindo, Tambor, Tortuguero D
Southwest Airlines Baltimore, Houston–Hobby M
Spirit Airlines Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Intercontinental M
United Airlines Chicago–O'Hare, Houston–Intercontinental, Newark, Washington–Dulles
Seasonal: Denver [17]
Veca Airlines San Salvador M
Volaris Cancún, Guadalajara M
WestJet Seasonal: Toronto–Pearson M

Cargo airlines

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



  1. AIP - Part 3 Aerodromes
  2. Delgado, Edgar (1999-01-28). "Concorde impuso récord". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Ponchner, Debbie (2005-07-02). "Hoy despega de suelo tico la misión TCSP de la NASA". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Ponchner, Debbie (2007-05-05). "NASA realizará gran misión científica desde suelo tico". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "ASQ Award for Best Airport in Latin America - Caribbean" Airports Council International. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-13
  6. Calvo, Rodrigo (2011-03-27). "Los mil rostros de La Sabana". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "En primber debate fueron aprobados el Arancel de Aduanas y la Ley de Pagos Internacionales". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. 1951-11-26. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 Rojas, Ronny (2008-07-09). "El Santamaría incumple normas de seguridad". Al Dia (in Spanish). Costa Rica. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Hace 50 años, Sábado 11 de marzo de 1961". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. 2011-03-11. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Feigenblatt, Hazel (2001-05-05). "Aeropuerto a manos privadas hoy". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Loaiza, Vanessa (2002-03-15). "Suspenden obras en aeropuerto". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 Loaiza, Vanessa (2009-12-04). "BID presta $45 millones para ampliar Juan Santamaría". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Loaiza, Vanessa (2010-11-10). "Concluye modernización de aeropuerto Santamaría". La Nacion (in Spanish). Costa Rica. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Bus schedule horariodebuses.com.
  15. [1] Transportationincostarica.com.
  16. "New flight routes and destinations from British Airways". British Airways. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 25 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "United Airlines confirms Costa Rica-Denver seasonal flights starting in December". Retrieved 15 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links