The creation of the Hub of the Americas at Tocumen Airport in 1992 was a major turning point in the company’s history – one that changed Copa Airlines’ impact on Panama. Copa added international flights, modifying flight schedules to facilitate international connections and adding strategic destinations that up to that point did not have airline service.
A 1998 alliance with Continental Airlines (today United) was another major development that increased Copa’s competitiveness. Copa adopted Continental’s technology and standards of service and began renovating its fleet with new Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft.
Since that time, Copa has sustained steady growth, becoming one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, with one of the highest on-time performance rates. The airline now transports more than 80 percent of the total volume of passengers traveling through the Tocumen International Airport in Panama.
During the course of its 65-year history, the airline’s expansion and growth have led to the Hub of the Americas’ becoming the leading hub in the region. According to a study of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Panama has the largest air-travel connectivity in relation to Gross National Product of any other country in the Americas, including the U.S., Brazil and Mexico.
This connectivity today drives Panama’s growth as a business center, regional headquarters of multi-national firms, and tourist destination, in addition to contributing both directly and indirectly to Panama’s Gross National Product at a level close to 4 percent (according to a 2010 INDESA study). This high degree of connectivity is a key factor in the decision of many multi-national firms, research centers, and international organizations to establish headquarters in Panama.
In 2011 Copa Airlines’ increased capacity 22 percent, expanded its operations at the Hub of the Americas from 4 to 6 flight banks and transported more than 8.8 million passengers throughout its route network comprised of 64 destinations in 29 countries in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. From Panama the airline currently operates an average of 260 daily takeoffs and landings.
“For all of us at Copa Airlines, this 65-year milestone of effort and success is not only a source of pride and satisfaction, it represents a dedication to offering our customers more travel options and benefits in the Latin American region, and said Pedro Heilbron, Copa CEO. “That commitment is what makes us more competitive and enables us to continue positioning Copa and Panama as the airline and country with the highest level of connectivity.”
In 2011, Panama was either the originating city or destination for 48 percent of Copa’s passengers, Heilbron added, and that statistic has been above 45 percent for the last five years. During that same time period, Copa increased in available seat miles by 16 percent.
This year, Copa Airlines has added five destinations to its route network, in addition to new frequencies to various cities in the region and expects to end the year with a fleet of 83 advanced-technology aircraft.
In addition, the airline contributes steadily to the economy of the country, hiring an average of 100 new workers each month during the last two years. By the end of 2012, Copa will have more than 8,000 employees, the majority of whom are in Panama.
Copa Airlines’ recent important achievements:
- Expansion of the Hub of the Americas from 4 to 6 flight banks (connection groups) (2011).
- On-time performance above 90 percent, at the level of the major airlines throughout the world in 2011.
- Pioneer airline in Latin American in purchasing the Boeing Sky Interior aircraft (2011).
- Winner of the best “Regional Leadership” award of the "Airline Business Strategy Awards 2012".
- In 2012, Copa joined Star Alliance, the world’s largest global airline alliance, offering passengers the possibility of travel to 1,350 destinations in 193 countries with more than 21,500 daily flights and access to 900 VIP lounges, in addition to advantages such as faster and more convenient transfers, the ability to earn and redeem miles, awards, and upgrades.