Published on July 20th, 2014 | by Mark Chesnut


AIRLINE REVIEW: United Airlines Boeing 737, San Jose, Costa Rica to Newark

During my most recent trip to Costa Rica to cover Expotur, the nation’s annual tourism convention, I flew Copa Airlines from Cancun to San José via Panama City (read my Copa Airlines flight review here), then stayed at three different hotels (read my reviews of the budget-priced Rincon de San José and mid-priced Aloft San José hotels, both in the capital area, and Banana Azul, a lovely beachfront hotel in the Caribbean coastal town of Puerto Viejo). On the way home, I flew United Airlines nonstop from San Jose to Newark. This is a review of my experience on board, and what you might expect on a similar flight.

THE ROUTE: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO: Juan Santamaría International Airport) to Newark (EWR; Newark Liberty International Airport); 4 hours 42 minutes; Boeing 737-800; Economy Plus

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THE AIRPORT: I arrived 2.5 hours before my 6am flight, so there were no lines for check in. Foreign visitors to Costa Rica must pay a $29 departure tax at the airport (it’s not built into the ticket cost), so unfortunately everyone must go to the separate government counter just to pay the government tax (they only accept dollars, colones or Visa), before going to the airline ticket counter. Luckily there was no line there, and I also lucked out with the security line, which as very fast.

Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose has seen some decent upgrades in recent years, with wider hallways, an OK food court and free WiFi. When it comes to boarding, the San Jose airport is one of those Central American airports with the curious practice of not allowing any liquids whatsoever on the plane, even if they were purchased in the secure area around the gates — and they check bags manually at the gate. So in other words, don’t bother filing that water bottle or buying yourself something to take on board; it will be confiscated (I’m not sure what the reasoning is behind this, considering that most airports in Latin America don’t do it, and I’d love to hear from anyone who has an explanation).

The only way I was able to secure an aisle seat on this flight was by paying extra for an Economy Plus seat, several days ahead of time, for $100, but for some reason my boarding pass had me in Group 5 for boarding.

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THE AIRCRAFT: The United Airlines Boeing 737-800 had two classes of service, with the economy class divided between standard seating and Economy Plus, where I sat.

Here’s a roundup of the on-board amenities on this United Airlines flight:

Blankets/pillows on seat? No.
Wings on headrests? Yes.
AC Outlets? Yes; between seats.
Airline food? For purchase only. They did distribute water at least twice, and left cups in the back of the plane during most of the flight — which is especially important, since the airport security team doesn’t allow anyone to bring water on board the plane.
Inflght Entertainment: Seatback screens, with a charge of $7.99 for use.

THE ARRIVAL: Newark Liberty International Airport provided a relatively efficient customs and immigration process. Unfortunately the AirTrain service was closed (I believe for a period of 90 days, for maintenance), so I had to wait outside for a bus into Manhattan.

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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