In 2017, Copa Airlines marked 70 years of flights in the Americas. Today, flights are available from major cities in the United States to Canada, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Copa’s flight network includes 74 destinations in 31 countries; served by 98 aircraft and counting. Its revenues have grown from $20 million to nearly $3 billion. But it wasn’t always the giant it is today.
The airline was founded in 1947. It started out as the National Airline of Panama and there were flights to three cities in Panama, flying Douglas DC-3/C47 airplanes. It expanded operations internationally in 1966 with three flights a week to San Jose, Costa Rica. Three years later, flights to Kingston, Jamaica; Managua, Nicaragua; and Barranquilla, Columbia were added. In the 1970s, the Copa destination network was expanded to include Medellín, Colombia; Guatemala and San Salvador. For a time Copa Airlines withdrew operations within the domestic market. But, flights were added to Miami, San Juan, Port-au-Prince, and Santo Domingo.
Forming a strategic alliance with Continental Airlines in 1998 was followed quickly with a fleet upgrade to Boeing 737 Next Generation airplanes. Flights were added to Mexico, Brazil, and the United States. New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and Washington, D.C. were added from 2000 to 2006. By 2017 Copa Airlines celebrated 7 decades of continuous growth.
Pedro Heilbron has been the CEO of Copa Airlines and Copa Holdings since 1988, and it was due to his leadership that the decidedly connected Hub of the Americas in Panama came to be the most successful in Latin America. Heilbron holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts and an M.B.A. from George Washington University.
Heilbron has been richly awarded for his work with Copa. In 2006, Latin Trade Magazine awarded him a BRAVO award for CEO of the Year. In 2009, Airline Business awarded him their Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society awarded him the Tony Jannus Award for outstanding achievements in the aviation industry. In 2016, Star Alliance elected Heilbron Chairman of the Chief Executive Board. Heilbron currently is the President of Panama’s National Tourism Council, and a member of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute advisory board.
Copa’s hub at Tocumen International Airport has a strategic location with convenient connectivity.
The Hub of the Americas offers direct flights to many South American destinations which previously had inconvenient stopovers. Copa allied itself with American Continental Airlines and adopted world-class operations standards, shared flights and frequent flyer program.
Panama serves more cities and has more flights than any other airport in Latin America.
CEO Heilbron notes that Copa has created a thriving airline hub serving these cities and tourism all over the world. Copa has been a significant part of Panama's service economy growth.
Copa has given people good reasons to fly to and through Panama.
Though the country is small, it is a center of regional finance and business. Home of the Panama Canal-it draws commerce and tourism. People fly with Copa because the airline serves smaller markets which previously did not have flight options. The company was not concerned with funneling passengers from other established carriers. The goal of flying passengers on time with precise operations was the challenging goal which it continues to meet.
Copa has flights from many major U.S. cities.
Beginning with Orlando, Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City, the airline understands these traditional gateways for Latinos and that they are also home to large expatriate Latin communities. Add business travelers and ecotourists drawn to Panama and other popular Central and South American countries. The Copa network also includes Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Francisco, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.
Copa offers Business and Economy Class service.
Only the Embraer 190 variant aircraft is an all-economy plane. The rest of the fleet offers business seats. Business Class passengers are offered separate check-in counters and priority boarding and baggage handling. They have access to Copa’s airline lounges and bonus miles for the company loyalty program. The seats are reclining leather with footrests and adjustable headrests. Multi course meals and pre-departure beverages are available. Personal audio, video screens, USB ports and 110-volt power outlets are included. Economy Class passengers offer a variety of entertainment options based on the age of the plane, food and snacks are available on shorter flights and full meals on longer flights. Alcoholic beverages are complimentary on all flights.
The Copa Airlines Check In process is easy using Web Check-in.
The streamlined process offers passengers the options of checking in from home or from work. It’s possible to check in even when checking bags, and boarding passes can be obtained within 24 hours to hour before your flight departs. The service makes world-class tech readily available for many passengers. The mobile version of its website is m.copaair.com
Copa Airlines Reviews on TripAdvisor are generally favorable.
Out of 6,630 reviews from the TripAdvisor Community, Copa Airlines received an average of four bubbles overall. Reviewers gave four bubbles in the areas of Customer Service, Cleanliness, Check-in and Boarding. One reviewer summed it up by writing that Copa is “a very civilized airline”.
Copa Airlines is recognized throughout the Latin world for its consistent route and aircraft upgrades.
Copa Airlines is known as Compañía Panameña de Aviación, S.A. in the Latin World. The airline also owns and operates AeroRepública; which is the Colombian airline Copa Airlines Columbia. The airline also owns the low-cost Colombian airline Wingo. Copa ordered 61 Boeing 737 MAX 8/9 airplanes in April 2015. The list price for the new aircraft was approximately $6.6 billion and is indicative of the airline’s commitment to high quality aircraft and increased flight frequencies to many new destinations.
Copa's website-posted Baggage Policy answers almost every question.
The Copa Airlines Baggage Policy includes detailed transportation information for sports equipment, musical instruments, perishable items, and pets. From archery equipment to paddle boards; from trumpets to accordions; from candy to fish packed in dry ice; dogs and cats; and much, much, more, detailed instructions about what is allowed and what is not is spelled out on the airline’s website.
Copa Airlines has a very nice award portfolio.
- OAG 2016-ranked Number 2 Worldwide most on-time airline for two consecutive years
- OAG is the world’s leading provider of digital flight information.
- World Travel Awards 2016-Leading Airline in Mexico and Central America
- FlightStats 2016-ranked most on-time airline in Latin America for four consecutive years
- Skytrax Awards-
- Best Airline in Central America/Caribbean (6 awards)
- Best Airline Staff Service in Central America/Caribbean 2016
- Best Regional Airline in Central America/Caribbean 2016
- Best Staff Service in Central America and the Caribbean (5 awards)
- Aviation Week- Top Performing Airline among midsize carriers
- América Economía- Best Companies to Work for in Latin America
Written by Garrett Parker
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