The Panamanian carrier Copa Airlines is renewing its fleet and plans to increase its Boeing 737 MAX 9 fleet to 15 units before the year ends. At the same time, Copa has been actively retiring and selling its older airplanes, as described by the airline’s management today during the 2021’s first-quarter results investors call.
Copa’s MAX plans
Copa Airlines is one of Boeing’s largest customers in Latin America. The Panamanian airline still has to receive 41 new MAX units, according to Boeing’s website. Unlike many other carriers worldwide, Copa has not reduced the size of its order due to either the MAX crisis or the COVID pandemic.
In the last few months, Copa has been actively receiving new MAX units. It currently has 13 Boeing 737 MAX 9, according to Copa’s management today. In 2021’s first quarter alone, the airline received six new planes.
Pedro Heilbron, Copa’s CEO, said,
“We expect to receive two more 737 MAX 9 in the fourth quarter, which would have us ending the year with a fleet of 83 aircraft.”
The plan is to have 14 more MAX aircraft by 2023, said Copa in February.
Adiós to the Embraers
Alongside this MAX update, Copa Airlines informed about the exit of its former Embraer fleet. Last year, we reported the Australian carrier Alliance Airlines was acquiring the whole Copa Embraer E190 fleet, composed of 14 units.
Copa Airlines has been gradually delivering the E190 planes to its new owner. During the first quarter, four Embraer 190 aircraft exited the fleet, said the airline. As of March 31, 2021, there were four remaining E190 aircraft sold that are expected to leave during the second quarter.
Copa’s current fleet is composed of 81 aircraft, 68 Boeing 737-800, and 13 MAX 9. One year ago, it had a total fleet of 102 airplanes.
Tocumen remains critical to connectivity
During 2021’s first quarter, Copa Airlines had a capacity of approximately 39% of its pre-pandemic levels. The airline carried 924,000 passengers between January and March, a 64.7% decrease compared to 2019.
Copa Airlines faced a complicated scenario due to heavy travel restrictions in Latin America. Pedro Heilbron said,
“The pace of recovery for international travel within Latin America is still significantly hindered by travel restrictions and health requirements. During the first quarter, several countries in the region imposed or were subject to new travel restrictions and health requirements that affected air travel demand.”
Nevertheless, Copa still believes Tocumen International Airport in Panama City is the gateway to success.
The Hub of the Americas will be an even more valuable source of strategic advantage, said Copa Airlines. This is particularly true as fewer intra Latin American markets are able to sustain direct point-to-point services.
Finally, Copa Airlines gave a brief update on the current state of its Colombian branch Wingo.
This carrier had a fleet of four Boeing 737-800 before the pandemic started, said Pedro Heilbron. Since, it has received two more units, increasing its capacity by 50%.
Additionally, Wingo has opened and announced several new routes, like Bogota-Lima, Medellin-Caracas, and Medellin-Cancun.
As of May 2021, Wingo operates 24 routes, mainly domestic. It has an average of 200 flights per week, offering nearly 25,000 seats, according to Cirium’s database.
What do you think about Copa and Wingo’s fleet plan? Let us know in the comments.