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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

Big Lake, Minnesota
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11. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

We are going to be experiencing this same scenario in early March. Nature Air changed our flight time from a 9:30 arrival to 11:30, with our international flight on Delta departing at 2:25. When I spoke with a Nature Air representative, he indicated that they have a separate area for passport control and customs, so it shouldn't take too long to clear. But, if our flight is delayed from Bocas due to weather, we might be in trouble.

Our trip insurance will only cover us if our Nature Air flight is delayed by at least 3 hours. The plus is that our international tickets were purchased using frequent flyer miles, so we aren't risking as much money if we have to rebook (although we could lose some more miles).

I love Hattie's idea of calling the airline if we know we are going to be delayed so we aren't considered a "no show." Thanks, Hattie!

When I posted a question about how often flights are delayed out of Bocas on the Bocas forum, one of the posters said we were crazy to do a same day flight. But no one was able to tell me how common weather delays are at that time of year. We are going to take the risk and pray that all goes well. I'll let you know how things turn out!

Winnipeg, Canada
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for Costa Rica
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12. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

...."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."

if this could be done it would help. However, normally to be considered in transit, the journey has to be one one ticket, or at least the airline has to agree to check the luggage through and this often depends on the interline agreements the airlines have with eachother. it would also,depend on where the Nature Air passengers land and are taken and if they can get right to the in transit area.

the whole reason i brought this up and asked to hear from someone who had actually done a trip since the changes is because we are in new territory here and all the details we are used to giving do not apply... I myself was curious as to how it works now.

as for on time performance, the following comes directly from nature Air's website - copy pasted..

"highest on-time performance

For six years in a row, Nature Air has been proud to operate with the highest on time performance (OTP) of all airlines in Costa Rica. Our industry leading OTP of plus 90% is impressive when compared to the industry standard of 72% and our competition at 55%.

We know you have a vacation or a business meeting to get to and we make it a priority to get you there on time. This is one of the reasons why the best tour operators worldwide and corporate accounts choose to only fly with Nature Air."

---------

But all this won't help anyone if your flight is in the 10% that are not on time and seriously delayed . And over and above weather, there are other things like mechanicals and operational issues that can cause delays..

So if one wants to be sure, the best thing is to fly in to Costa Rica the day before to be safe and avoid stress and possible issues...

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

Unless we can hear from someone who has done this recently, as you say Raquel, then planning on flying in the day before is probably the best idea.

Huntsville, Canada
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14. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

According to Nature Air web site as of Dec 1 international check in is at counter 51-52. There is no indication that you have to go to what we know as the Sansa Terminal. Like I said this is according to their web site. Not sure how passport/immigration works in this situation.

Huntsville, Canada
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15. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

Forgot like raquel indicated, if you have 2 seperate tickets you would have to clear customs get luggage etc then check in at 51-52 and then security again. If a single ticket you would stay in sterile area, luggage automatically gets put on new plane and you then board. Your checkin for the 2nd flight would have been done in Panama. At least this is the way I see it.

Big Lake, Minnesota
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16. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

Just returned on Saturday, and the process went like this:

Our Nature Air flight from Bocas del Toro landed at SJO about 10 minutes late. A bus picked us up, and a separate vehicle picked up our luggage. The bus brought us to the main terminal immigration - there was no separate immigration section for Nature Air flights. The line moved quickly for us (about 15 minutes), but if you happen to land when a bunch of other planes come in, it could be a long process (when we arrived in Costa Rica from the states, it took 45 minutes). We picked up our luggage at the main baggage claim, went through customs, and exited the airport. Crossed the street, took the escalator up to the second floor, crossed the road and entered the departure section of the terminal.

We saved ourselves some time by paying our departure tax the day we arrived in Costa Rica. My husband also has Sky Priority boarding with Delta, so were able to jump into a short line for check in, which saved us more time. Since we were traveling with children, we were able to move into a faster line through security.

We arrived at our gate about 1 hour and 45 minutes before our departure time. So the whole process took 1 hour and 15 minutes.

We got lucky that it all went well. I would never attempt a same day flight during rainy season, and I am not sure I would do it again even during dry season (why push our luck?). There is no option to check in with the major airlines at the Bocas airport to have your luggage go all the way through to your final destination if you are flying Nature Air.

BTW, PHXMATEO, we loved Bocas del Toro.

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

Great information, gandmik! Thanks for the feedback on the process. I'm sure this will be very helpful to other people -- I've made some notes for the next person who asks about those logistics.

Slovenia
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18. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

Now that is what makes this forum a great one. First hand informations given by members that have asked about it before, and are willing to share their knowledge afterward. Thank you, gandmik!

Big Lake, Minnesota
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19. Re: San Jose (SJO): Customs and connecting flight concerns

You are most welcome!

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

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