Southwest Returns To Guanacaste, Costa Rica After Over A Year

Southwest Airlines resumed flights to Costa Rica on the weekend after a year-long hiatus. The Central American country was a longtime Southwest destination, but the airline suspended flights in early 2020. On Sunday, Southwest Airlines recommenced two flights into Costa Rica, one to Alajuela, San Jose (SJO), and the other to Liberia, Guanacaste (LIR).

After an absence of more than one year, Southwest Airlines headed back to Costa Rica on the weekend. Photo: Southwest Airlines

“We’re excited to continue reestablishing previously served international service by reuniting the warm hospitality of Costa Rica with the heart and value of Southwest,” said Southwest’s Andrew Watterson.

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Southwest resumes flights to Liberia, Guanacaste & Alajuela, San Jose

On Sunday, Southwest Airlines kicked off daily nonstop flights from Houston’s Hobby Airport (HOU) to Liberia, Guanacaste, and Alajuela, San Jose. The Southwest flight to Liberia, WN691, pushes back daily from Houston at 10:45 to land at Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport at 13:10. The return service to Houston, WN817, departs Liberia at 14:10 and touches down in Houston at 18:35. Flying time is around three and a half hours.

Passengers heading to Alajuela depart Houston Hobby Airport on WN122 at 17:05 and arrive at Alajuela’s Juan Santamaría International Airport at 19:40. The return service to Houston, WN1203, leaves Alajuela at 08:00 every morning and lands back in Houston at 12:45.

Next week, Southwest Airlines will commence a seasonal weekly service between Baltimore/Washington Airport (BWI) and Liberia, Guanacaste. Beginning Saturday, June 12, WN809 will push back from BWI at 08:25 and touch down in Liberia at 11:15. After 55 minutes on the ground, WN810 will depart Liberia at 12:10 and arrive back at BWI at 19:05.

Southwest Airlines will fly to Costa Rica from Houston Hobby and BWI Airports. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest joins a long list of airlines flying into Costa Rica

With Southwest Airlines back in Costa Rica, eight United States-based airlines are now flying in. In July, when Frontier Airlines resumes flights, it will see nine US-based airlines servicing Costa Rica. Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines all fly in.

“The restart of Southwest is great news for the region,” says Liberia Airport’s General Manager César Jaramillo. “We are doing things well, and that translates into a confidence of the airlines in our market.”

145 passengers were onboard the first Southwest flight to Liberia. Southwest had flown to Costa Rica since 2015, until the airline suspended its flights last year. For Costa Rica, these flights are vital. Tourism is one of Costa Rica’s biggest income earners, and 70% of those tourists come from the United States. Costa Rica needs airlines like Southwest to bring in those tourists.

Costa Rica is reopening to tourists and that brings in the airlines. Southwest Airlines

Costa Rica reopens to tourists

Just outside Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, Juan Santamaría International Airport is the country’s busiest. On Sunday, when Southwest Airlines resumed its flights from Houston, the airport handled 110 flights. That’s just shy of the number of daily flights the airport hosted at the same time in 2019. This time last year, the airport was handling around 20 flights a day.

Aiding that rebound was the country reopening to tourists late in 2020. More recently, Costa Rica has relaxed entry restrictions further, reopening land border in April. Currently, arrivals from the United States don’t need negative test results. Instead, passengers need to fill in an online health questionnaire before arrival. That generates a QR code which is shown on arrival. Easy.

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines continues to resume flights into markets it had previously served. On Sunday, the same day Costa Rica-bound flights took off, Southwest headed back to Jackson, Mississippi.