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Airports Seek to Reduce High-Season Wait Time

November 12, 2004

THE nation’s two main airports presentedplans last week to improve transittime for arriving passengers as thetourism high season gets under way.Alterra, the consortium that managesthe Juan Santamaría International Airportin Alajuela, northwest of San José,announced a contingency plan thatincludes increased Immigration staff forhigh-traffic hours and a reduction in thenumber of luggage searches for thosearriving in Costa Rica.Now, all bags are searched. The newplan calls for selective searches, accordingto a statement from Alterra.The company also plans to workwith the Civil Aviation Administrationto coordinate flight schedules to avoidcongestion at terminals, the statementsaid.Meanwhile, the Costa Rican governmentannounced similar measures at theDaniel Oduber International Airport inLiberia, capital of the north westernprovince of Guanacaste, where the numberof travelers is expected to double thisyear – in part because of new flights byGrupo TACA, Air Canada and USAirways.The airport plans to hire more securityand Immigration staff and extend airporthours, and Customs officials willinspect baggage selectively like at JuanSantamaría Airport, according to a statementfrom the National Tourism Chamber(CANATUR).“There is more to be done, but withthese measures the airport will have amore fluid operation during the high season,which is what worries us most rightnow,” CANATUR president WilliamRodríguez said in the statement.Both airports’ plans were presentedin response to criticism from tourismindustry groups that said existing systemswould “collapse” during the high season(TT, Oct. 8).The Costa Rican Association ofTourism Professionals (ACOPROT)denounced the Alajuela airport, whileCANATUR and the Guanacaste TourismChamber (CATURGURA) denounced theLiberia airport.“The world ‘collapse’ is exaggerated,”Alterra representative José PabloVillalobos told The Tico Times by e-mail.“According to Alterra’s quality controlexperts, there will be no collapse, becausein January 2005, the high-season monthwith greatest traffic, there will only be917 additional passengers per day, whichis not a threatening number.”Villalobos said it takes an average of20-45 minutes for arriving passengers tocomplete entry requirements, althoughthis wait time rises to 45-60 minutes duringpeak travel hours.“If the contingency plan is notimplemented soon, we fear that this waittime will rise substantially during peaktravel hours during the high season,” hesaid.Costa Rica’s tourism high season runsfrom December to March.

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