Nicoya’s airfield could receive commercial flights from San Jose

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Translator: Arianna Hernández

Flying from San Jose to Nicoya and vice versa could become a reality. Citizens and at least one airline have become interested in setting up an air route due to obstacles and increased travel time for those who travel by land between the two points.

For a few years now, road work between Barranca and Limonal has interrupted the flow of traffic, and recently the closure of Route 1 through Cambronero and the ground caving in along Route 27 have, also.

The Nicoya – San Jose route would be added to others that already exist to get to and from Guanacaste, such as Tamarindo, Nosara and Liberia.

Sansa’s sales manager, Pablo Mora, told The Voice that the airline is willing to consider setting up the route, but that it requires support from residents, businessmen and chambers in the area.

“We have already started a market study in the area to see how we can enter the market, what market we have, how we can go about it, at what times, maybe a couple of days a week to start, see how it grows and how it develops,” he specified.

We also consulted other airlines that travel to Guanacaste (Green Airways, Skyway, Aerobell) by e-mail about the feasibility of considering Nicoya as a destination, but we didn’t receive replies from them.

Inconvenience for Travelers

Nicoyan municipal council member and president of the Chamber of Commerce Johnny William Gutierrez explained that he is aware of several people who travel to other districts of the province to catch flights.

“Many residents are going to Tamarindo to take the plane to be able to travel with Sansa to San Jose for health procedures, high season inventory matters, fiscal year closing matters or financial transactions. This is what we’ve discussed with different businessmen and women involved in activities that are carried out in the area,” said Gutierrez.

Repairs to the La Amistad bridge over the Tempisque River would add to the current complications en route. Although a date for work to commence hasn’t been scheduled, the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation announced that the first phase of inspection and diagnosis began on Wednesday, October 26.

Commercial flights using small planes arrived at Nicoya’s airfield before 2015. However, the small number of passengers caused the airlines to stop flying to this destination.Photo: Adrián Fonseca - Focus

Nicoyan Airfield in Optimal Conditions

Traveling to Nicoya hasn’t been an option for airlines due to lack of passenger demand. However, Nicoya’s airfield, located near the sports center, has the capacity to receive small planes.

Its runway is almost a kilometer (about half a mile) long and is owned by the National Civil Aviation Authority. That’s the institution that would have to authorize flights in case any company requests it.

“We would have to take it to process it with Civil Aviation. Since we’ve already operated on the runway in private flights and others, we already have the knowledge, and Civil Aviation has already given us authorizations to do the operations. So there wouldn’t be so much of a problem,” said Pablo Mora, Sansa’s sales manager.

The deputy director of Civil Aviation, Luis Miranda, clarified that Nicoya’s airfield is in good condition and available for the airline that needs it.

The airfield is in normal operation. There is no situation that would produce or mean that it would have any temporary or permanent closure,” said Miranda.

The deputy director explained that any private or commercial company that meets the requirements can make use of the runway when it needs it.

Sansa’s sales manager pointed out that during the last year, there was an increase in the demand for flights to the destinations where they operate: Nosara, Tamarindo and Liberia. In each of these destinations, they used to only schedule one flight a day, but they currently have up to four or five a day, especially to Nosara and Tamarindo.

High Season Could Create Pressure

The Guanacaste Chamber of Tourism (Spanish acronym: CATURGUA) hasn’t made any arrangements with Sansa or any other airlines to discuss the possibility of opening up flights to and from Nicoya, according to the chamber’s president, Hernan Binanghi.

“We haven’t talked to them about whether they’re experiencing demand. Likewise, we have to review the conditions we have with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (Spanish acronym: ICT), not just the chamber. The most important point is that the highways have to be fixed,” Binanghi emphasized.

He added that having flights to Nicoya contributes little if the government doesn’t assume the responsibility of keeping the highways in good condition.

The secretary of CATURGUA, Rebeca Alvarez, also emphasized the importance of addressing the problem of the highways.

“The subject of flights to Nicoya may be a solution to emergency issues, but it’s not what we’re hoping for as a chamber. We’ve had several requests for a meeting with the Minister of Public Works and Transportation, Luis Amador. We see it as an urgent issue because vacation times are coming, but we have to work on the issue of highways,” she pointed out.

The Sansa company said that as of yet, they haven’t received a formal request for the option of flying to Nicoya from the chamber, groups in the area or the Municipality of Nicoya. However, they’re open to receiving or listening to proposals.

We’re the first to tell them yes, that they can count on us,” said Pablo Mora, about the willingness to talk with groups in the area on the subject.

CATURGUA’s secretary added that the finances of Guanacastecans isn’t enough to always take flights, but rather it’s an option that foreigners use more.

A bus trip from San Jose to Guanacaste can cost between ¢3,500 and ¢6,500 (about $5.50 to $10.50) or a little more, depending on the destination, while a plane trip from San Jose to a destination like Tamarindo costs between ¢40,000 to ¢70,000 (about $64 to $112) or even more, according to airline websites.