After hotel owners experienced a great deal of recent cancellations, with emails from would-be-clients citing the lack of flight availability from PTY to BOC as the reason, a meeting was called at the Ultimo Refugio restaurant where Bocas business owners gathered to address the situation with Air Panama to discuss the possibilities of adding more Panama City to Bocas flights.
The meeting began with a comprehensive presentation by Kelly Berube de De Caro of the Buena Vista restaurant who summed up concerns vocalized by many Bocas business owners in regards to the way the air service affects the community. The main concern was that the decrease in number of flights have caused an immediate impact on hotel reservations and since tourism is the life-blood of the Bocas economy, less flight arrivals affect every aspect of live on the island. Canceled hotel reservations trickle down to less restaurant meals, tours, etc. and going so far as to affect wages, employment and the social fabric the the island in general. Knowing all well that Air Panama is a private enterprise welcome to operate its business in which its administrators deem its best interest, the group wanted answers as to why there were only 3 daily flights in the week of December 20th, where in past years Air Panama would typically provide 6-8 daily flights to the island.
Air Panama stated that there is currently only one plane available in which Bocas’ smaller runway can support; a problem which they attributed in part to routine engine maintenance. They also stated that they are interested in adding an evening flight, but will be unable to do so until the Aeronáutica Civil adds certain equipment necessary to the Isla Colon airport to ensure safe evening time landings.
The good news is, however, that they have recently acquired 2 planes that are projected to be serviceable to Bocas starting January 15th. If you have reservations around that time and are unable to get flights, please keep checking back as they could be adding flights any day. They also announced the addition of Bocas to San Jose routes starting as early as February; so keep that option in mind if you are flying internationally with your final destination being Bocas del Toro. Since the meeting, Air Panama has increased the number of daily flights to 4-5. Ursula Kiener Ford of Air Panama Viajes had this to say: “We are willing to work together with the community to understand eachother’s needs because we both need eachother to make tourism grow.”
If you’re trying to get to Bocas and can’t find an Air Panama PTY to BOC flight: do not give up! Wonderful things still await you here, even without an Air Panama flight. Perhaps this “not always being able to get to Bocas on a 45 minute flight from the city” is all a part of the Caribbean charm?
Or not. However, other options are available:
- Get to Almirante and take the classic Ferry ride to Isla Colon (with terrace bar)
- Nature Air already offers flights from San Jose, Costa Rica
- You can also fly to the city of David from PTY and rent a taxi (or take a bus) to Almirante and then a boat from Almirante (marine shuttle taxis stop at 6pm).
- You can rent a car from Panama City and drop it in Changuinola and get a taxi to your boat in Almirante. Road trip!
- You can take a very comfortable shuttle (with WiFi on board and boarder crossing assistance) from San Jose or Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica courtesy of Caribe Shuttle.
- Or if you are feeling young and adventurous, you can take a not-so-comfortable 10 hour bus ride from Panama City to the port town of Almirante.
Air Panama flights from Panama City to Bocas remain the favorite of veteran Bocas-visitors, so if you prefer that; please write to them and let them know your experience if you were unable to use their air service to Bocas. Please keep checking for that sweet 45 minute flight that we all love because Air Panama and the Bocas community are working toward a solution.