Costa Rica Loses FAA Category 1 Safety Rating

Costa Rica has lost its Category 1 rating from the FAA. In a press release, the FAA announced that Costa Rica does not comply with international safety standards. As a result, no new air links will be allowed on Costa Rican carriers between Costa Rica and the United States.

Costa Rica Loses FAA Category 1 Safety Rating
Liberia International Airport is one of the big gateways for tourists traveling to Costa Rica. Photo: Spikezz/Wikimedia

The FAA release

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made the announcement on May 13th. In the release, the FAA cited the results of an in-country assessment and process leading to the rating.

The FAA led an in-country assessment in October 2018. Once the assessment was completed, the FAA spoke with Costa Rica’s Direccion General de Aviacion Civil (DGAC) in February of 2019. The DGAC is Costa Rica’s civil aviation regulatory body.

The FAA did not specify exactly what was the matter with Costa Rica’s safety rating. In general terms, the FAA indicated the potential areas of deficiency: technical expertise, trained personnel, inspection procedures, and record-keeping.

What does this mean?

Costa Rican airlines will only be allowed to maintain existing services between Costa Rica and the United States. Currently, only Volaris’ subsidiary – Volaris Costa Rica – operates flights between Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose and the United States.

Costa Rica Loses FAA Category 1 Safety Rating
Juan Santamaria International Airport is one of the main gateways to Costa Rica. Photo: Christ2208/Wikimedia

Volaris Costa Rica flies to Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles. Most flights operate as a one-stop via San Salvador. However, Volaris Costa Rica will not be able to initiate new direct flights to the United States.

Costa Rica Loses FAA Category 1 Safety Rating
Volaris expanded with a new subsidiary in Costa Rica in 2016. Photo: Adavyd/Wikimedia

Costa Rica as a destination

The Tico Times reported Costa Rica saw over three million tourists in 2018. In 2017, Costa Rica reported receiving just under three million tourists. Moreover, data indicates that Costa Rica has seen a steady increase in the number of tourists since 2010. In addition, over 80% of North American tourists originated in the United States.

As a result, airlines are adding additional services between the United States and Costa Rica. Routes Online reported on American Airlines‘ plans to expand service from Dallas to Costa Rican cities.

Costa Rica Loses FAA Category 1 Safety Rating
American Airlines will be expanding service to Costa Rica with 737 aircraft. Photo: American Airlines


Costa Rica isn’t entirely alone in this situation. In 2015, Thailand lost its Category 1 FAA rating. Unfortunately, Thailand hasn’t been able to regain their Category 1 rating. This doesn’t bode well for Costa Rica.

The FAA first gave Costa Rica a Category 1 rating in 1996. It seems now that Costa Rica will need to fix some things before regaining their Category 1 status. Costa Rica is a wonderful country to visit and we hope that they can regain their Category 1 status soon!

Are you concerned about aviation safety in Costa Rica? Have you been to Costa Rica? Let us know in the comments!