By Panorama of the Americas Editorial
Photos: Carlos Eduardo Gómez
The symbolic value of the one hundred mark is deeply rooted in Western civilization. For the Greeks, it represented ten squared, the most perfect of numbers, and attaining this number was (and still is) synonymous with great achievement. Last month, Copa Airlines accepted the delivery of the 100th aircraft to join its fleet, a Boeing 737-800 Next Generation. These narrow-body aircraft are more efficient and reliable than previous models and they are capable of linking most American destinations from the Hub of the Americas in Panama.
A Quantum Leap
Aside from the aircraft’s technical specifications, its arrival reflects the airline’s tendency towards steady and systematic growth, taking advantage of Copa’s potential. Copa is a very different airline from the one that, in 1999, began updating its fleet by ordering the Boeing 737NG, 800, and 700 model aircraft. At the time, the company flew to just over twenty destinations, mostly cities near Panama, using aircraft of different ages and specifications.
At present, the hundredth aircraft joins one of the youngest and most technologically advanced fleets on the continent, belonging to an airline that directly employs more than 9,000 men and women (not to mention the many indirect jobs it creates). Copa Airlines is one of the country’s largest private employers. More importantly, the airline has made Panama a logistics hub par excellence, boasting the greatest connectivity in the Americas and serving seventy-four destinations. That is why more and more multinational companies, international agencies, and NGOs, among others, choose Panama as their regional headquarters. This connectivity is essential to making the country a tourist, commercial, and business center; more and more airlines from other continents look to this Central American nation as a hub from which to move passengers throughout the hemisphere. This cumulative effect could well be described as a quantum leap.
A First-World Airline for the Americas
Clearly, Copa Airlines takes advantage of Panama’s strategic position to achieve the above, but it could never truly capitalize on this advantage without the commitment of every airline employee to punctuality, especially, but also to providing travelers with the best possible experience. The Hub of the Americas operates six flight banks a day, allowing us to serve the vast majority of our destinations daily and, in many cases, up to six or more times a day.
Latin American travelers have never before enjoyed such accessibility in terms of frequency and flight times between cities in the region. Often, they were forced to connect at airports in the northern part of the continent before traveling south. Today, passengers in the region enjoy comforts and conveniences previously available only in the developed world, while the constant connectivity that Copa Airlines offers fuels unprecedented opportunities for economic growth and prosperity for the cities we serve and their inhabitants.
Copa Airlines is currently enjoying a wonderful moment. In July of this year we announced the purchase of sixty-one Boeing 737 MAX at an event that was attended by the presidents of Panama and the United States, Juan Carlos Varela and Barack Obama. This is one of the most important business transactions in the history of the Latin American airline industry, and demonstrates Copa Airlines’ commitment to continued growth for the benefit of Panama and the Americas.
Meanwhile, construction continues on the new terminal at Tocumen International Airport, home to the Hub of the Americas, complementing our development with improved airport infrastructure. This will also entice new global airlines to use Copa Airlines’ connectivity in Panama and throughout the region. It is expected that by mid-2018, when the first 737 MAX start operating, they will do so from an airport with about sixty ports and service facilities capable of serving 18 million passengers a year.
Copa Airlines will continue to drive development in our industry, in conjunction with other important players such as tourism and the logistics and services sectors. In the future, this Panamanian –but also Latin American and global– airline is bound to achieve other milestones given its commitment and constant growth.