KLM to resume flights into Costa Rica to support growing European demand

KLM has opened reservations this week for a planned twice weekly Amsterdam - San Jose flight launching from October 31, 2017. This will be flown on Tuesdays and Fridays and operated by one of its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. It previously served San Jose until March 1998.

Dutch flag carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is to resume flights between Amsterdam and San Jose in Costa Rica this winter as traffic flows between Europe and the Central American country highlight an increasing interest in the nation, known for its beaches, volcanoes, and biodiversity.

KLM has opened reservations this week for a planned twice weekly flight launching from October 31, 2017. This will be flown on Tuesdays and Fridays and operated by one of its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. It previously served San Jose until March 1998 offering a three times weekly triangle flight combined with Panama City flown by a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 in its last season of operation (winter 1997/1998).

“KLM currently brings many passengers to Costa Rica via Panama. The increasing interest of the European market in this beautiful country convinced us to start a direct flight to San José,” said Pieter Elbers, president and chief executive officer, KLM.

Costa Rica stands as the most visited nation in the Central American region, with closing on three million foreign visitors every year. Arrivals have grown every year of this decade and at sustainable rates in line with the country’s tourism strategy. These are dominated by flows from the United States of America, but European interest in Costa Rica is on the rise with improved air connectivity facilitating easier access.

The Costa Rican Tourism Board, Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, (ICT) is opening the country’s borders to more international visitors as part of a sustainable tourism policy. The country is located in Central America, nestled between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south; it is bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea and the west by the Pacific Ocean.

With an abundance of unique wildlife, landscapes and climates, the small country proudly shelters approximately five per cent of the known biodiversity in the world. In order to protect and preserve its wealth of natural resources, it has become a global leader in sustainable practices with protected areas comprising 26 per cent of its land mass.

Toursm data from 2015 shows that arrivals into Costa Rica from Europe grew 6.1 per cent versus the previous year to almost 400,000 annual visitors with the Netherlands being the sixth largest European source market after Germany, Spain, France, UK and Italy. The new non-stop offering will help stimulate this market, while KLM’s significant network out of Amsterdam will also facilitate convenient one-stop options from throughout Europe.

“This new flight, not only will facilitate visits to our country, but also thanks to KLM´s global network, this route will serve as a liaison for Costa Rica to open its doors to tourists from all Europe. This will for sure strengthen tourism in our country, generating benefits to the more than 600,000 persons who work in this activity in direct and indirect manner, and to the communities that find in tourism their opportunity to grow,” confirmed Luis Guillermo Solís, president of Costa Rica.

San Jose’s Juan Santamaría International Airport is currently served by British Airways from London Gatwick, and Iberia from Madrid, while KLM’s sister venture Air France offers a seasonal link from Paris Charles de Gaulle. Swiss leisure carrier Edelweiss Air will introduce a new flight between Zurich and San Jose from May 9, 2017. UK leisure carrier Thomson Airways also offers a weekly flight between London Gatwick and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia, the main tourism gateway for visitors to western Costa Rica and its Pacific coast. 

Analysis of Sabre AirVision Market Intelligence data from Sabre Airline Solutions shows that increasing connectivity between Europe and Costa Rica is helping to grow passenger demand. Bi-directional O&D demand rose 3.6 per cent in 2016 to just under 500,000 passengers with traffic from the UK increasing by 12.4 per cent buoyed by British Airways’ new non-stop flight from May 2016.

The Netherlands market currently generates around 55 PPDEW (passengers per day each way) or around 40,000 per year, according to the statistics. However, its yield has been much weaker than other major European markets with average one way fares of just $326, compared with $397 from the UK, $385 from Spain, $381 from Germany and $352 from France.

As KLM’s CEO Pieter Elbers highlights, the majority of passengers between the Netherlands and Costa Rica are currently connecting via the flag carrier’s existing flights into Panama City (45.3 per cent), but there are also sizeable flows via Houston (23.0 per cent), and notable flows via Atlanta, Madrid and Newark. KLM had a 39.6 per cent share of this traffic in 2016, ahead of US carrier United Airlines (26.5 per cent).

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