Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Ground Handling – Part 1

PT 4 M minute read
Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Ground Handling – Part 1

This is a post by author Delmark Muir. Delmark is Managing Director for Universal Aviation Costa Rica, which has aircraft ground-handling facilities in San Jose and Liberia. Delmark is an expert on business aircraft operations in Costa Rica and can be contacted at

This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a friendly destination for business aircraft operations. Ground handling quality is high at major airports, and most services are readily available. Still, there are many issues to be mindful of, including availability of services at your destination, customs and immigration services, and parking issues – to name a few. It’s also important to be mindful of documentation needs at your destination.

The following is an overview of what you need to know.

1. Popular airports

Costa Rica has four airports of entry (AOEs). San Jose (MROC) and Liberia (MRLB) are the primary destinations for both business and tourism in Costa Rica. These are also excellent tech stops with quick turns usually averaging just 30-45 minutes. The other AOEs are Limon (MRLM) and San Jose Tobias Bolanos (MRPV). MRPV is located closer to San Jose’s city center than MROC but has a shorter (5,905-foot) runway and restricted hours of operation.

2. Ground handling arrangements

A full schedule – along with aircraft, crew and passenger information – is needed to set up ground handling in Costa Rica. You should itemize required services – such as catering and lav/water service – at the time a ground handling request is made. The ground handler will use your itinerary to obtain parking. Be aware that standard aircraft documentation – including airworthiness and registration certificates and worldwide insurance – must be onboard and available, upon request by airport authorities, when you land.

3. Advance notification

At least 12 hours’ notice is recommended when requesting ground handling for the two major AOEs: MROC and MRLB. MRPV needs 24 hours’ notice, while MRLM requires 72 hours advance notification. Short-notice requests may be possible, on a case-by-case basis. Authorities may impose restrictions, however, on short-notice operations. Air ambulance flights are always permitted to operate on short notice.

4. Hours of operation

MROC is Costa Rica’s only 24-hour airport. MRLB operates 0600-2359, and airport overtime is not available. Be aware that customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ), fuel, catering, and other services are usually only possible at MRLB until 1800 local. If you’re arriving after 1800 local, special arrangements should be made for any required services. MRLM is open 0800-1600 local with no overtime possible, while MRPV operates 0600-1700 local and also offers no overtime options. Airport hours at MRPV are usually limited to sunrise to sunset, so it’s always best to confirm operating hours prior to arrival.

5. Processing handling requests

Once a handling request is received, your ground handler contacts the airport operations department – usually via email, but occasionally by phone – to coordinate a parking permit. Meanwhile, other required services – such as fuel, lav/water, and catering – will be coordinated by your handler. A parking confirmation number will be provided by airport authorities. This confirmation number is the tail number plus the date of operation (e.g., NXXXdatemonth). It’s not necessary to place this confirmation in the remarks section of your flight plan. Be aware that your actual parking spot location will not be provided until day of arrival. All airport and 4th-party service charges may be settled on credit with advance notice to your ground handler.

6. GSE availability

Ground handlers at AOEs in Costa Rica have a good supply of ground support equipment (GSE) and are usually able to rent any required additional equipment from other providers at the airport. Note that MROC and MRLB offer a wider range of services and GSE than MRLM and MRPV, but there are still limitations. For example, MRLB does not have towbars for B747s, while MRLM does not have any GSE available, including tow trucks. It’s recommended to review and confirm any GSE requirements with your ground handler prior to day of operation.

7. Documentation

While completed arrival cards are required for Costa Rica, departure cards are not needed. Your ground handler will complete arrival cards, as much as possible, prior to your arrival if you’ve sent crew/passenger information in advance. In the case of tech stops, arrival cards are not needed, and CIQ clearance is not required so long as crew/passengers do not embark/disembark. Operators may request arrival cards from their ground handler, and these will be sent by mail.

8. Additional Reading: Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica – Series Index

Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.


When operating to the San Jose area – either to MROC or MRPV – be aware of parking limitations and possible service delays during the November-to-March high season. While MRPV is much closer to the city center than MROC be aware that airport curfew hours at MRPV may significantly impact your schedule and schedule change flexibility.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Costa Rica, contact me at

Later we’ll discuss additional ground handling considerations for Costa Rica and their impact on your trip.