Low-cost airlines increase presence in Costa Rica

October 26, 2016

Low-cost airlines are targeting Costa Rican travelers and, just in the past few days, three of them announced new routes to enter the battle for the Tico travel market.

Wingo, part of the same parent company of Copa Airlines, confirmed last week that it will begin flying between Costa Rica and destinations in Panama and Guatemala starting on Dec. 1.

The company announced in a news release that it will offer five weekly flights from Costa Rica to Panama and three from Costa Rica to Guatemala.

Air Panama also confirmed the launch of two weekly flights between Costa Rica and Roatán Island in Honduras. The carrier currently operates routes from Costa Rica to Panama City and to Bocas del Toro three times a week.

General Manager Eduardo Stagg said in a statement that this is the first time the airline will offer a direct flight to the island, seeking to make the destination more accessible.

Honduras Tourism Minister Emilio Silvestri said the new route to Roatán brings high expectations for access to new tourism markets such as Costa Rica.

The ministry launched a marketing campaign last Friday in travel agencies and announced that starting next year they will increase their mass media presence to attract more Ticos.

Mexican carrier Volaris also confirmed that before the end of the year it will open budget routes to four main Central American destinations, although it did not disclose which ones. The routes will use Costa Rica as a hub; the airline already connects San José with Cancún and Guadalajara in Mexico.

The low-cost market in the region already includes VECA Airlines, which offers nonstop flights from San José to El Salvador since February. From there, travelers can connect to routes to Managua, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Flights available to Ticos will also increase with the opening of a route between San José and Guatemala that Tico airline Air Costa Rica is scheduled to open in December. The new carrier also plans to open routes to Colombia, El Salvador and the United States.

Market expansion

Avianca and Copa dominated the market for flights from Costa Rica to Central American destinations in recent years.

The rise in competition now seems to be playing a role in decreasing prices at those airlines, which in recent months have offered special prices for flights between regional destinations.

These carriers don’t compete directly through their prices, however. Among others, their strategy is offering special tariffs in their economy class flights, plus benefits previously available only for their business class passengers

They also are offering alliances with other airlines to offer connections to other routes.

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