“PANAMA WILL GAIN IMPORTANCE AS A LOGISTICS CENTER, AND WE WILL BE READY TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF THIS NEW ECONOMIC SITUATION.” -Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa Holdings
The airline, Copa, which has played a key role in Panama’s rapidly expanding economy in recent years, will continue to be an important factor in the country’s future growth and development after the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed, Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa Holdings, told Latin Trade.
“Following the canal expansion, canal-related businesses, including banking and other services, will experience new growth and present us with new opportunities,” said Heilbron, who has served as CEO since 1988 and who led the conversion of Copa from a small national carrier to a major player among Latin America’s international airlines. “Panama will gain importance as a logistics center, and we will be ready to meet the challenges of this new economic situation.”
As Panama’s economy grew, Heilbron and his executive team took advantage of the country’s geographical location in the “middle” of Latin America to provide a wide range of connections between the United States, Central America, the Caribbean and South America.
Focusing on international flights, Copa developed the Hub of the Americas at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City as its base of operations, added new flights to underserved destinations, invested in modern aircraft and employee training, established a strategic relationship with Continental Airlines (now United Airlines) and applied the best practices of Continental to its rapidly expanding system. Copa continues its alliance with United and in 2012 joined the Star Alliance global airline network.
Copa also took over Aero República in Colombia in 2005 (now Copa Colombia), adding new routes in another fast growing market.
Today, Copa offers more than 280 daily scheduled flights to 63 destinations in 29 countries through its Panama hub and expects to carry about 10.3 million passengers this year. The airline currently has 83 modern aircraft, including 39 Boeing 737-800s, 18 737-700s and 26 Embraer 190s, and is adding seven new 737-800s next year.
Copa invests $150 million to $200 million a year, mostly in new aircraft, and currently has more than 8,000 employees, with around 6,500 in Panama. For the past two years, the airline has grown so quickly that it has added an average of 100 new workers each month.
In the third quarter of 2012, Copa Holdings, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, posted operating revenue of $590.4 million, up 24.5 percent over the same period in 2011, and had net income of $111.9 million, a 59.1 percent increase over the third quarter of last year. Copa expects capacity growth of 24 percent this year, and 14 percent in 2013–the slowdown a result of adding fewer passenger aircraft in 2013 than in 2012.
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