Juan Santamaría International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría) (IATA: SJO, ICAO: MROC) is the primary airport serving San José, the capital of Costa Rica. The airport is located near the city of Alajuela, 20 km (12 miles) west of downtown San José. It is named after Costa Rica’s national hero, Juan Santamaría, a courageous drummer boy who died in 1856 defending his country against forces led by US-American filibuster William Walker.
The airport is hub of local airline Nature Air and Sansa Airlines, and focus city airport for Copa Airlines and Avianca. It was the country’s only international gateway for many years, but nowadays there is also an international airport in Liberia, Guanacaste. Both airports have direct flights to North and Central America and Europe, with the difference that Juan Santamaría International Airport also serves cities in South America and the Caribbean.
The airport’s main runway allows for operations of large, widebody aircraft. Currently, some scheduled flights are operated with Airbus A330 and A340, and Boeing 747, 767 and 777, for both passengers and freight. A Concorde landed in 1999 for that year’s airshow. The airport has also a small hangar (called the “NASA” hangar) where research aircraft are kept that operate in Costa Rica including the Martin B-57 Canberra high altitude aircraft. (This hangar has since been removed as the mission was completed.)
Juan Santamaría International Airport was once the busiest airport in Central America, but currently it is ranked second after Tocumen International Airport in Panamá. In 2015, Juan Santamaría International Airport received 4.3 million passengers (international flights only). In 2011, the airport was named the 3rd Best Airport in Latin America – Caribbean from the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International