Copa Airlines Quietly Resumes 737 MAX Flights A Week Early

On the same day that American Airlines resumed commercial operations with the Boeing 737 MAX in the US, another carrier did the same. Copa Airlines resumed operations with its MAX fleet, flying from Panama City to San Jose, Costa Rica.

Copa Airlines Boeing 737 MAX
Copa Airlines resumed operations with the Boeing 737 MAX on December 29. Photo: Felipe Escalona / Aviación PTY.

The come back went unnoticed

Copa Airlines doesn’t want that the spotlight is on its MAX fleet. So, without further notice, the airline pushed forward the resume of operations with the Boeing 737 MAX. Originally, Copa was expected to operate the MAX on January 4.

The Panamanian airline followed Aeromexico’s steps, which also pushed forward (by three days) the resume of operations of the MAX. But Copa went even further and went under the radar as the public eye was on American Airlines flight 718.

It was a surprise for everyone in Latin America to see flight CM806 operated with a Boeing 737 MAX 9.

According to, flight CM806 departed from Panama City at 10:55 local time. Copa used its MAX HP-9906CMP. The airline currently has seven MAX after becoming the first non-US carrier to receive a new aircraft after the grounding.

Copa Airline MAX flight
Copa Airlines flew from Panama City to San José, Costa Rica. Photo:

What does Copa Airline say about this?

Simple Flying contacted Copa Airlines about this news. The airline confirmed that it operated this MAX flight on December 29. It also said that it did another flight today, December 30, on the same route. It added

“Despite we operated a commercial flight to San José yesterday, and another one today, we keep January 4 as the resumption date for our 737 MAX-9 fleet. (From that date), it will start operating continuously, focusing on farther away destinations such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, in the US; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Montevideo, Uruguay, among others.”

Felipe Escalona, an aviation lawyer in Panama, told Simple Flying that Copa Airlines’s decision surprised everyone. He added that Copa Airlines has three Boeing 737 MAX ready for action. The registrations of these aircraft are HP-9901, HP-9905, and HP-9906.

Copa Airlines Boeing 737 MAX
Copa Airlines has a fleet of seven Boeing 737 MAX-9. Photo: Felipe Escalona / Aviación PTY.

The first in operating the MAX on international routes

So far, four carriers have brought back the Boeing 737 MAX after 20 months grounded. The first was GOL Linhas Aereas in Brazil, followed by Aeromexico and American Airlines. Now, Copa Airlines is the fourth, but it is also the first to operate it on an international flight.

Still, the airline went to extraordinary lengths to go unnoticed by the public eye. One source, who asked to remain anonymous, said,

“I’ve been told that Copa doesn’t want to do a proactive campaign about the return of the MAX. Instead, they are being reactive because they’re aware that there’s still some fear.”

On its website, Copa Airlines is also silent about the Boeing 737 MAX. The Latin American carriers operating the MAX are approaching the subject in a different way than the airlines in the US.

For instance, American Airlines has had a communication campaign to reassure its flying public about the MAX. Instead, Aeromexico and GOL simply tweeted once or twice about the MAX, and Copa did none of that.

According to some polls in the US, more than half of the flying public is still uncertain of flying onboard a Boeing 737 MAX. The Boeing narrowbody spent 20 months grounded after two crashes that led to a toll of 346 deaths.

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