Copa Airlines looking for growth, adds routes, increases flight frequencies


Panama’s Copa Airlines is looking for growth by adding new destinations and increased flight frequencies on existing routes rather than through a cross border merger, its chief executive said.

The carrier, which has more than quadrupled its fleet to 56 aircraft since 1998 and now serves 45 destinations in 24 countries, has already identified another 30 cities where it could add service in the future, Copa Holdings Chief Executive Pedro Heilbron said at the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit.

“We have the advantage of being right in the middle of the Americas, so we can serve most of the markets out of Panama without needing to buy into another carrier in another country,” said Heilbron.

“It’s not something that we are going to ignore if there’s a good possibility in the future but it’s not something that we are actively looking for,” he said when asked about the possibility of acquisitions.

The airline may add three or four new destinations through the end of 2010 and into late 2011, he added.

Copa Holdings is the parent of Copa Airlines as well as Colombia’s Aero Republica, which was acquired in 2005.

Colombian rival Avianca and El Salvador-based TACA airlines merged earlier this year in a bid to create a Latin America-wide network carrier.

Copa last year placed orders for 15 Boeing 737-800s, one of the largest orders for Boeing airplanes placed in 2009, according to Heilbron, as it targets a fleet of 72 jets by 2012, including 42 modern 737s capable of flying from Panama City to destinations as far away as Argentina.

“Latin America is the brightest – if not the brightest one of the brightest – spots in the world of aviation,” said Heilbron.

“We have in Latin America some of the leading airlines in the world in terms of economic performance.”

Copa’s first-quarter results were hurt by a charge due to the currency devaluation in Venezuela and higher costs but the company continues to project its margins will be in excess of 20 percent this year.