How Copa Airlines & Panama Are Navigating The COVID Recovery

Despite nearly shutting down for many months in 2020, the Panamanian carrier Copa Airlines expects a full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022. The airline closed last year with nearly an 80% passenger recovery. So what can we expect from 2022?

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Copa Airlines expects a full recovery in 2022. Photo: Getty Images.

Copa’s rebound

Copa Airlines had one of the toughest challenges across the Latin American region. Being an airline with only one domestic route (Panama-David), its connectivity was at stake due to the many travel restrictions imposed to prevent new COVID-19 cases. Nonetheless, Copa Airlines has managed to make a strong recovery.

The airline recovered approximately 70% of its 2019 traffic by the third quarter of 2021 and was expected to exceed 80% in the fourth quarter. Moreover, it projected a full recovery in 2022.

In November, Pedro Heilbron, Copa Airlines’ CEO, said,

“Going forward, we expect further relaxation of travel restrictions and a continued demand recovery, which should allow us to deploy additional capacity in the fourth quarter and 2022. But of course, COVID has not gone away, and we’ve seen in other parts of the world, additional waves of the virus could affect demand in the future. So, we will remain focused and flexible in terms of capacity, adjusting our plans as needed.”

How Copa Airlines & Panama Are Navigating The COVID Recovery
Copa Airlines has recovered over 92% of its pre-pandemic seat availability. Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno | Simple Flying.

How’s Copa doing right now?

As of January 2022, Copa Airlines has 8,552 flights scheduled, with 1.3 million seats available throughout the region, according to Cirium. Both numbers represent a 16.8% and 8.5% decrease compared to January 2020 levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Copa Airlines is offering 70 routes from Tocumen International Airport, its hub. Two years ago, it had 79 routes available from ‘The Hub of the Americas.’ Copa Airlines still has to resume connectivity on routes to:

  1. Bridgetown, Barbados
  2. Guanacaste, Costa Rica
  3. Holguin, Cuba
  4. New Orleans, US
  5. Port Au Prince, Haiti
  6. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  7. Recife, Brazil
  8. Rosario, Argentina
  9. Salta, Argentina
  10. Salvador, Brazil
  11. Santiago, Dominican Republic
  12. St. Maarten
  13. Tegucigalpa, Honduras

If the numbers don’t add up, it is because Copa Airlines has also launched a few new routes compared to 2019. For instance, instead of flying to Tegucigalpa (Toncontín International Airport), Copa is now flying to the new Palmerola International Airport (which does serve Tegucigalpa, but it is not in the capital city of Honduras, but rather over 70 kilometers away). It also launched flights to Cúcuta and Armenia (Colombia) and Atlanta (US).

Copa Airlines’ leading route in January 2022 is Panama-Cancun. The airline is offering 243 round flights between both destinations, a 12% increase compared to 2019. Panama-San José (Costa Rica) and Panama-Bogota also remain leading routes, both with over 200 flights throughout the month.

Boeing B737-8V3 COPA Airlines HP-1840CMP MMMX Apr 26 2021 AF 01-
Copa Airlines is taking advantage of the geographic position of Tocumen International Airport to connect the Americas. Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar.

What about Tocumen overall?

According to data provided by Tocumen International Airport, the ‘Hub of the Americas’ received 7.9 million passengers between January and November 2021. That number was approximately 52.3% of 2019 levels when Tocumen had already surpassed 15 million passengers by November.

Nonetheless, Tocumen’s recovery increased exponentially in 2021. The airport started in 2021 with 458,628 travelers (31% of 2019), and by November, it had 1.08 million passengers (81%).

Around 78% of all passengers arriving at Tocumen International Airport are connecting travelers, meaning they use the ‘Hub of the Americas’ to fly elsewhere.

Finally, Tocumen International Airport has 9,519 scheduled flights in January 2022, with 1.5 million seats available. These numbers are 17% and 9.5% below January 2020.

What do you think about Copa Airlines’ recovery in 2021? Let us know in the comments below.