Copa looks to strengthen its Panama City ‘Hub of the Americas’
Copa Holdings CEO Pedro Heilbron told ATW that as Copa Airlines’ capacity increases upon completion of the expansion of Panama City’s Tocumen airport in May 2011, the carrier wants to cement the strong position of its “Hub of the Americas,” which he said can handle flow traffic better than competitor hubs such as Lima or Bogota. Speaking at the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Panama City, Heilbron said the airport expansion, which includes adding 12 gates, will increase Copa’s capacity at the facility by more than 50% (ATW Daily News, Nov. 18).
As a future Star Alliance member, Heilbron said that Copa is looking forward to welcoming Star carriers from Europe or Asia, although he noted that the distance involved could make nonstop flights to PTY “challenging” for some Star members. He noted that Copa can flow traffic to destinations in the region that it would not make sense for alliance members to serve directly (ATW Daily News, Nov. 11). He acknowledged that in joining Star, Copa will be thrown together with archrival Avianca-Taca. But, he noted, “We believe [the alliance] is better with AV [than] without them.”
He said Copa is not looking at intercontinental services, something that would require a new aircraft type. “With our 737-800s, we can fly all over America but we don’t plan long-haul flights,” he said.