Only one major U.S. airline has reduced flights to Costa Rica in recent months, despite the industry’s far-reaching reductions in domestic service, blamed on skyrocketing oil prices and a soft economy to the north.
American Airlines, which lands about 43 flights a week in San José, the most among major U.S. carriers, discontinued its two weekly flights from Los Angeles on April 7, according to company spokeswoman Martha Pantín.
The Forth Worth Star-Telegram reported Thursday that American also plans to cut two weekly flights each from Dallas/Fort Worth to Costa Rica.
With the price of oil hovering at $135 per barrel, the company could not see it as “feasible” to keep up the same level of service, Pantín said.
“We’ve cut many flights across the system,” Pantín said.
The airline industry has been one of the hardest hit as international oil prices continue to climb. American and Continental Airlines made news recently with their plans to reduce domestic service and close smaller connection points across the United States.
No ripple effects have arrived to local shores. The Costa Rican Tourism Board reported a 16 percent increase in visitors from the end of May 2007 to the same period this year, according to TheMoodie
The United States, whose citizens comprise 54 percent of Costa Rica’s tourists, is still the main country of origin for most visitors.
On June 25,American Airlines announced its plans to reduce its fourth quarter domestic flight capacity by about 12 percent and its regional affiliate capacity by about 11 percent versus last year’s levels.
Likewise, Continental informed employees on June 12 that the company would reduce its domestic flight capacity by 11 percent as of September.
Among those airlines contacted, Continental, US Airways, Delta Air Lines and Spirit Airlines all plan to maintain the same service to Costa Rica.
Delta, however, will cut its flight out of New York City’s JohnF.KennedyAirport to San José from September to November because of the typically low tourist season traffic.
“This was already planned long before … oil prices went up,” said Delta spokesman Carlos Santos. “Delta, just like … all the other airlines, is having to take a good look at its … systems and decide which flights are profitable and viable in this kind of environment.”
The airline has also made reductions or cancellations at different domestic locations. “It’s not hitting as severely in international destinations,” Santos said. “We’re being very lucky in that.”
US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder said the airline is keeping an eye on the market and will make changes accordingly.
“It’s an issue of supply and demand, but the industry needs to reduce capacity to combat fuel,”Wunder said.
Wunder categorized the Costa Rican market as a seasonal versus heavy one. Meanwhile, charter companies flying to Costa Rica may be sweeping up leftovers from major airlines.
“Our business generally tends to pick up as capacity is decreased to the leisure markets,” said Jim McPhail, chief operating officer for Pace Airlines, a charter company based in North Carolina.
McPhail said Pace flies tour groups from Puerto Rico to San José once a week from the end of June to mid-August.
Charter company Miami Air, which flies to San José and Liberia at least 50 times a year, caters to a specific crowd of travelers – such as sports teams and Fortune 500 clients – and foresees steady sales in the future.
They Love to Fly Here
Minimum number of weekly flights by U.S. airlines landing at San José’s JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport and Liberia’s DanielOduberInternationalAirport:
US Airways 7