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Juan Santamaría International Airport

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.

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 (2018)
Passenger change 17–18Increase2.7%
Aircraft movements78,897
Movements change 17–18Decrease15.0%
Source: Costa Rican AIP,[1] DGAC[2]

The airport is a hub of a local airline Sansa Airlines, bases for Avianca Costa Rica 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 transportationEdit

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 main runway allows for operations of large, widebody aircraft. Currently, some scheduled flights are operated with Airbus A330 and A340, and Boeing 747, 767 and 777, 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]

The major operator in the airport is Avianca, followed by Copa Airlines which uses the Main Terminal (M). Sansa Airlines flights depart from the Domestic Terminal (D). 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]

Airlines and destinationsEdit

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


Current domestic routes from SJO.
Current Americas 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 Panama City–Albrook
Air Transat Seasonal: Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson, Vancouver
Alaska Airlines Los Angeles
American AirlinesCharlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, New York-JFK (begins November 21, 2019)[15]
Seasonal: Phoenix–Sky Harbor
Avianca Costa RicaBogotá, Guatemala City, Lima, Managua, Panama City-Tocumen, San Salvador
Avianca El SalvadorSan Salvador
Avianca GuatemalaGuatemala City
British AirwaysLondon Gatwick
CondorFrankfurt, Santo Domingo-Las Américas
Copa AirlinesGuatemala City, Managua, Panama City-Tocumen, Tegucigalpa
Copa Airlines ColombiaPanama City-Tocumen
Delta Air LinesAtlanta, Los Angeles
Edelweiss AirZürich
InterjetMexico City
JetBlueFort Lauderdale, Orlando Int'l, New York-JFK (begins November 1, 2019)[16]
KLMSeasonal: Amsterdam
LATAM PerúLima
Sansa AirlinesCosta Esmeralda, Drake Bay, Golfito, La Fortuna, Liberia, Limón, Palmar Sur, Puerto Jiménez, Quepos, San Isidro, Tamarindo, Tambor, Tortuguero
Southwest AirlinesBaltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Hobby
Spirit AirlinesFort Lauderdale, Orlando Int'l[17]
United AirlinesHouston–Intercontinental, Newark
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare, Washington–Dulles
VivaAerobúsSeasonal: Cancún
Volaris Costa RicaCancún, Guatemala City, Managua, Mexico City, San Salvador
Wingo Bogotá[18]
  • ^1 Condor's flights to and from Frankfurt fly via Santo Domingo, the airline has rights to transport passengers solely from Santo Domingo-Las Americas to San Jose.


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
LATAM Cargo Brasil Miami
LATAM Cargo Chile Miami
LATAM Cargo México Mexico City
UPS Airlines Miami


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, 2000–2018 (millions)
Source: DGAC
Number of passengers Percentage change Number of movements Freight (tonnes)
1960 209,624
1965 216,162  09.6% 14,827 9,839
1970 381,278  016.3% 28,673 19,808
1975 759,098  018.1% 33,417 21,727
1980 658,154  02.5% 33,013 21,712
1985 617,474  00.3% 24,990 27,282
1990 987,870  010.8% 35,569 72,419
1995 1,839,175  03.8% 52,402 88,249
2000 2,160,869  04.3% 72,428 77,137
2005 3,243,440  012.2% 72,131 64,338
2010 4,257,606  05.0% 87,384 85,164
2011 3,857,588  09.4% 72,674 98,609
2012 3,872,467  00.4% 67,002 94,775
2013 3,797,616  01.9% 62,598 85,022
2014 3,917,573  03.2% 73,307 86,741
2015 4,494,875  014.7% 82,835 75,329
2016 4,595,355  02.2% 85,731 73,633
2017 5,092,060  010.8% 92,834
2018 5,230,382  02.7% 78,897 91,152
Source: Directorate General of Civil Aviation of Costa Rica

Top international destinationsEdit

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  00.62% Air Panama, Avianca, Copa
2 Houston, United States2 211,017 204,318 415,335  08.89% Southwest, United
3 Mexico City, Mexico 189,358 191,635 380,993  016.67% Aeroméxico, Interjet, Volaris
4 Fort Lauderdale, United States 188,381 188,457 376,838  017.51% Jetblue, Southw3est, Spirit
5 San Salvador, El Salvador 182,658 185,483 368,141  01.68% Avianca, Volaris
6 Miami, United States 146,658 149,607 296,265  01.00% American
7 Atlanta, United States 127,362 128,674 256,036  07.45% Delta
8 Guatemala City, Guatemala 126,354 123,937 250,291  017.06% Avianca, Copa, Volaris
9 Bogotá, Colombia 109,184 108,389 217,573  06.48% Avianca, Wingo
10 Madrid, Spain 96,489 101,827 198,316  02.03% Iberia
11 Los Angeles, United States 90,317 86,237 176,554  035.57% Alaska, Delta
12 Newark, United States 91,460 83,374 174,834  02.16% United
13 Lima, Perú 68,203 72,427 140,630  076.71% LATAM, Avianca
14 Orlando, United States 53,046 54,702 107,748  05.96% Jetblue, Spirit
15 Dallas, United States 51,585 53,735 105,320  02.90% American
16 Toronto, Canada 51,136 46,897 98,033  08.79% Air Canada, Air Transat, WestJet
17 Paris, France 47,348 46,619 93,967  0290.75% Air France
18 Managua, Nicaragua 44,560 46,125 90,685  041.84% Copa
19 Frankfurt, Germany 40,980 42,908 83,8883  0103.89% Lufthansa, Condor
20 Cancún, Mexico 32,461 33,403 65,864  035.78% Viva Aerobus, Volaris,
21 Zurich, Switzerland 31,959 32,244 64,203  075.42% Edelweiss
22 London, United Kingdom 26,996 27,620 54,616  00.76% British Airways
23 Charlotte, United States 27,183 24,233 51,416  02.00% American
24 Tegucigalpa, Honduras 26,578 19,771 46,349  00.09% Avianca, Copa
25 Amsterdam, Netherlands 16,756 15,166 31,922  0554.01% 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 viceversa 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 incidentsEdit

  • 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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ AIP - Part 3 Aerodromes Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ (in Spanish) Resumen Estadístico 2017. Datos Preliminares 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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2019-06-26. Retrieved 2019-06-26. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-06-18. Retrieved 2018-06-18. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Wingo launches flight between Bogotá and San José de Costa Rica" (in Spanish). June 2019. Archived from the original on June 25, 2019. Retrieved June 25, 2019. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  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 linksEdit

  Media related to Juan Santamaría International Airport at Wikimedia Commons