There are two domestic airlines that serve Costa Rica with scheduled flights. SANSA has been in service since 1978 as part of the TACA Airlines regional airline system. It is owned by the national carrier Avianca Costa Rica (formerly and aka LACSA).
Aerobell started in 1988 with small plane and helicopter charters. They began scheduled domestic flights on July 24, 2018 picking up some of the routes left open by tourist carrier NatureAir when they ceased operations six months earlier.
SANSA and Aerobell both use versions of the single engine Cessna 208 Grand Caravan.
Domestic Flights on SANSA & Aerobell
Aerobell has limited initial operations to seven of the most touristic destinations – Tortuguero, Tamarindo, Tambor, Quepos, Drake Bay, La Fortuna (Arenal) and Puerto Jimenez. They also seem poised to adopt NatureAir’s tourist first model responding quickly to e-mails or phone calls in English (or other languages).
The “national” airline, SANSA is consistently a couple dollars cheaper, but probably not enough to influence a choice between the two.
Generally flights range from $40-$180 each way (there may be additional fees). Both airlines also offer charter services to all of the airports they normally serve plus others lacking scheduled flights.
There are Two San José Airports
Depending on which airline your domestic flight is on it will depart from one of San José’s two airports.
Aerobell flies out of Tobias Bolaños airport north of Pavas.
SANSA flies out of the main international airport Juan Santamaría (SJO) south of Alajuela.
SJO is more convenient if you’re connecting with a international carrier but some aspects of Tobias Bolaños are superior.
It’s tiny. Just one room and you breeze through ticketing, check in and security.
Last time we landed at SJO on a regional flight from Panama the 10 passengers from our plane were stuck in immigration for a couple of hours since jumbo jets carrying 250 passengers each from Miami, Houston, L.A. and New York had arrived a few minutes earlier.
There are no rental cars at either airport; all agencies are at satellite locations between the two airports. There are information desks and regular shuttles from SJO to the rental agency lots but you’ll either need to arrange a pickup or take a taxi from Tobias Bolaños
Check your airports carefully. It takes time to transfer between airports!
A taxi ride between the two airports costs around $25 and takes less than 30 minutes (plus up to an hour or more for traffic delays at peak times).
Aerobell Airline Updates
For its grand opening Aerobell announced that all of its flights until the end of August 2018 are specially priced at just $45. However we were unable to find a way to reserve at this price via the website so you may have to call (560) 4000-2030.
Aerobell also announced that flights to Liberia, Golfito, Bocas del Toro Panama would be added “in the near future.”