Those unhappy with landing fees have little recourse

ny passengers with concerns about being slapped with extra fees when their commercial aircrafts land at a private field in Costa Rica probably will not get much help from the civil aviation authorities.

The agency reports that it still is investigating two cases of air field operators charging unapproved fees.

And, it says, any air passenger unhappy with having to pay $7 coming and going from the airport in El Tanque can get their own lawyer and sue in civil court.

The airfield is much traveled because it is near La Fortuna and Arenal.

Anyone who wants to complain can go to the offices of Aviación Civil in La Uruca, call the office at  2242-8074 or visit the agency Web page, said the agency.

There has only been one complaint in the last year, officials there said.

A.M. Costa Rica has characterized the fees as private taxes on tourists. The newspaper reported on the unofficial fees last month.

The Dirección General de Aviación Civil said then that the airport operator in El Tanque was not authorized to charge any fees. Neither was the operator in Quepos.

The landing fees are not a secret. Nature Air, a firm that conducts many of the domestic flights, lists in its terms and conditions that the airport near Arenal is a place where air travelers will be charged $7 both ways.

Airport operators in Quepos, Tambor and Tamarindo also charge fees.  The operator at Tambor on the Nicoya peninsula was authorized only to charge $1 and the operator of the Tamarindo airport was approved to charge $1.54, officials said in July. The fee being collected in Tambor is actually $2.30 and the one in Tamarindo is $3, Civil Aviación has said.

These fees are charged to passengers, and they are over and above any fees that might be charged airline companies for using the airport.

The latest information comes from Roy Solís Cruz, who is the agency’s coordinator of airports.

La Managua airport in Quepos and Aeródromo Agua Milagrosa in El Tanque-La Fortuna are the airports that Civil Aviación has said are being investigated.  Solís said the cases are being resolved administratively. The most severe penalty would be closing the airports.

The money involved is not small change. The $7 fee for landing and taking off was brought to this newspaper’s attention by someone who paid $42 for three persons.

The Dirección General de Aviación Civil official said the agency does not keep track of airport finances except when airport tariffs are being considered.

The agency does not have any laws that provide for financial oversight.

Travelers who leave the country at Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela or Daniel Oduber in Liberia are required to pay a $29 departure tax, but this levy is established by law.

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