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San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

PHOENIX
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San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

I'm attempting to structure an itinerary for a trip from the U.S to Bocas del Toro, then return back to the U.S. I'm concerned about the amount of time between our return flights when changing planes in San Jose CR (SJO)

On arrival, the flight from the U.S arrive too late to get an Air Nature flight to Bocas. We'll get a hotel and fly Nature Air to Bocas the following. That's fine.

On return, we would fly out of Bocas @ 11:30am, arrive in SJO @ 1130am (time zone change), then change planes to a United Airlines flight back the U.S, scheduled to depart at 2:02pm. I'm concerned that 2.5 hours may be cutting close trying to make our United flight back to the U.S.

So a few questions...

1. How much time should I allot for Costa Rican customs (at SJO) coming from Bocas (Panama)?

2. I believe Nature Air does business out of Terminal B in SJO, but cannot figure out what terminal(s) United Airlines operates out of in SJO. (the official SJO airport website doesn't provide that info). I'm looking for any info on the distance between the two airlines' operations in SJO.

3. I will be considering regional weather conditions as a potential delay factor as well. We will be traveling in the late March / early April time frame. Assuming weather will be less of a factor than other times of the year?

Is 2.5 hours cutting it too close to try to make an international plane change in SJO?

Thanks for any input

Costa Rica
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1. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

1. The amount of time at passport control and customs will depend on how many other flights arrive around the same time. Customs is usually pretty fast - but it will depend on how long it takes for your luggage to show up on the carousel. In general, you can count on getting through passport control and customs and out of the terminal in 45 minutes to an hour. You can check flightstats.com to see how many other flights are arriving around that time.

2. United operates out of the main terminal and Nature Air operates out of a smaller terminal that is about 5 minutes away from the main terminal. You will exit the main terminal, then walk up the sidewalk to the other terminal.

3. Weather can always be a factor - especially when you are taking a flight from a coastal area. There's no way to predict what will or won't happen.

If everything goes well, 2.5 hours is plenty of time, but if your flight from Bocas del Toro is seriously delayed........

I would check to see if there is another flight out of SJO later in the day that you could take and be sure you understand what it will cost to change your ticket. Also, if you have a cell phone and you are seriously delayed, call United and tell them and they can re-book you and you will not be classified as a "no show."

Edited: 02 February 2014, 18:58
Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

I don't think your problem is the 2.5 hours - I think the problem is that the local flights, because they're small planes, are more often delayed or canceled due to local weather conditions. The good news is that March/April is dry season in most of Costa Rica. The bad news is that it rains frequently on the Caribbean coast. I would not want to risk flying in from Bocas the same day you are flying out, as that is a very expensive ticket home if your flight gets delayed.

Have you considered flying through Panama City? That way you don't have to clear customs between Bocas and your flight home.

How much time for customs coming from Bocas is purely a factor of how many other flights arrive the same time as yours. I have spent longer waiting for luggage to come off Nature Air's flights than I have clearing customs.

PHOENIX
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3. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

Thank you both for the very helpful information. I have looked at traveling through Panama City. It is somewhat cheaper and may not require an overnight stay in the connecting city, but there were a few concerns with that route

1. United operates out of PTY, and AirPanama operates flights to Bocas out of PAC. On arrival, there's a 4 hour plane change, going back to the U.S., there's a 3 hour plane change. So not sure if we could make the cab ride between the two PTY and PAC and make our connection in time. I don't know the traffic conditions of the cab route or how long Panama customs and baggage claim would take.

2. I've read that people are having problems getting confirmations from AirPanama after they made a reservation and their card was charged. More stories of double charges on their card and getting a refund was very difficult. People also say it's impossible to get a response, or talk to a human at AirPanama. Sounds like their customer service is seriously lacking?

Thanks again for your input.

Edited: 03 February 2014, 00:17
Winnipeg, Canada
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4. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

I agree with the points made in the two previous replies - that since one never can predict whether a flight will be on time or late the connection could be risky.

And although it would not change the situation for this trip, it would be nice to hear from someone who has actually flown on Nature Air - and arrived from Panama since they have moved their operations to SJO. The process may be slightly different than before.

For departures - as far as I can tell from both their website and other tidbits I have read, they DO NOT use the little terminal that SANSA uses. They use the main terminal where the International airlines also have their check in. Their check in counters appear to be at the far end.

www.natureair.com/airportinformation.aspx

Which leads me to the question about arrivals and specifically arriving from Panama - since it is an International flight. Do the passengers end up in the same Immigration area and the same line as ALL other incoming passengers at SJO or do they have a separate immigration area for these flights?? If the first, depending on what has landed at the time, it could be quite quick, or could take a fair amount longer than when they used to come to Pavas.

Just wondering - since this all is a relatively new scenario....

raquel

Punta Uva, Costa...
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5. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

Great points by Raquel!

Canada
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6. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

Yes I was thinking the same - there is no cutoms at rhe Sansa terminal and why would they share it with their main domestic compeditor?

Canada
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7. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

Yes I was thinking the same - there is no cutoms at rhe Sansa terminal and why would they share it with their main domestic compeditor?

Costa Rica
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8. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

There is no customs at the Sansa terminal because Sansa does not fly internationally.

As for "sharing with their competitor" - the main terminal has lots of competitors sharing. And it's just possible that Sansa rents that space rather than actually owning their terminal...... just like other airlines.

Good point by Raquel - if Nature Air is in the main terminal, that could be so that people can pass through the existing passport control and customs. And if Nature Air is in the main terminal and someone only has a connecting flight, there should be no need to go through passport control and customs. So that changes the picture quite a bit.

Still........ the main point is -- the timing of the flights. It could be an "iffy" thing. If the weather is good and all is well, then no problem. You would need at least 1/2 an hour between flights so even a delay of up to 2 hours would work in that case.

Canada
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9. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

My point was that this is ioincorrect information

" 2. United operates out of the main terminal and Nature Air operates out of a smaller terminal that is about 5 minutes away from the main terminal. You will exit the main terminal, then walk up the sidewalk to the other terminal."

Costa Rica
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10. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

Yes, your point is taken -- I was just lumping all the "small guys" together! My bad......