Looking for a new – and affordable – holiday destination? Try Costa Rica. Southwest Airlines and the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) confirmed that the discount carrier will start daily service to Juan Santamaría International Airport outside San José from Baltimore in March 2015.
Starting on March 7th, Southwest Executive Vice President Robert Jordan announced that travelers can expect fares as low as $130 one-way from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The change in service rings consistent with the major carrier’s discount reputation, having an average 30 to 40 percent lower cost than its competitors.
The daily service in the harbor city will be on Boeing 737-700 jets, and will house a capacity of 143 passengers. According to Vice President Jordan, customers will be able to connect to a variety of 60 destinations on 200 daily flights out of BWI.
“We have millions of current customers in the United States, and we can see where they want to travel, and we can see – based on their requests – that Costa Rica was at the top of their list,” said Andrew Waterson, Southwest vice president of network planning and performance.
The low-cost carrier also aims to start offering direct service to travelers from Houston Hobby Airport sometime in October 2015.
“Our international expansion in the first phase is geared toward tourist destinations, and San José represents a different kind of tourist destination – not just a beach, but also business and visiting relatives travel. So, Costa Rica looked like the best fit for our market,” Waterson added, referring to Southwest Airlines’ announcement in 2014 to add a Central American market.
According to the ICT, 90 percent of U.S. tourists arrive in Costa Rica by air travel, spending an average of 10.4 nights and more than $2,000 per person, per visit. As United States residents are the largest single source of visitors to Costa Rica, the new routes are expected to further bolster the relationship between the two nations.
More recently, tourism industry representatives have been increasingly concerned about the rising costs for travelers in Costa Rica. However, Waterson noted that the country provides greater experiences than many other destinations, citing the nation’s quality welfare and overall safety.