So, why does Liberia need a whole new terminal when they're such a small airport? Spend just a few minutes trying to get your flight out of the old terminal and you'll see the reasoning immediately. On a Sunday afternoon during peak departure time as weekenders head home to go back to the grind, the old terminal is overflowing with passengers and their luggage; all seats are taken, all the good eats have long sold out from the single food vendor (a $2 donut, it is then), and the cramped duty-free shop has a snaking checkout line that practically blocks new shoppers from entering.
Needless to say, Liberia has quickly outgrown its facilities as tourism to the region chugs ahead like a locomotive freshly shoveled full of coal. Just last week, three new flights to the airport began: the JetBlue direct from JFK, a competing route from Continental/United out of EWR, and a long-haul on AirBerlin from Düsseldorf, Germany. Plus, arrivals are on track to reach 600,000 people in 2012, up from 530,000 this year.
Gate seating areas. Old terminal on left, new terminal on right.
So, when will it open? The answer to this is less certain than saying that they'll be serving seriously decadent chocolate cake at the new cafe (a pre-flight treat highly recommended by Mr. Ofori). The building is ready to go, save for a few things like taking the plastic off the shiny new metal detectors, buffing the expanse of tiled floor in the departures hall, and hooking up the bathroom sinks.
Heck, the "Pura Vida" souvenir magnets are already stuck to displays in the (much larger) gift shop, the large art photographs (all for sale by an in-terminal gallerist) decorating areas are already hung on the walls, and the waterfall feature in the security channel is running. All that's needed is the official sign-off and for the ground vehicles and staff to move next door, and they're in business. Maybe you'll be the first one to get a green Costa Rican passport stamp herewho knows?
· The airport is due to get even more new flights, with Sun Country in March, more frequencies from Continental and a United direct to Chicago.
· Departure gates have 484 seats, but we recommend heading into the Colibri Lounge just after security, where for $25 per person, you have a basic airline lounge with free Costa Rican snacks and drinks (paid booze), free WiFi and comfy chairs.
· There are 7 gates total, four with jetways.
· The airport is equipped to handle up to A340-600/Boeing 747-400 planes.
· The Players Cafe is racing-themed, but the food is anything but fast. More fresh, local and tasty ingredients are the focus, and everything from morning muffins to evening dessert and wine will be found here.
· There are four shops, offering clothing, art, coffeebeans, books, duty-free, etc.
· This will be the first time car rental agencies have counters inside the terminal; you'll find them at baggage claim.
· Beyond customs after arriving, you'll even find a concierge desk for the Four Seasons Resort Peninsula Papagayo, where staff can arrange transportation to the resort or start work on any special requests you thought of on the plane over.
Rest assured we'll let you know as soon as the terminal does open to flights, because umm...yeahit's a game changer in Central America for sure.
Disclosure: We zipped down to Costa Rica as guests of JetBlue and the Costa Rica Tourism Board, but rest assured that all opinions and all photos are completely our own.
[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted]