Copa Airlines

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Copa Airlines
Copa airlines logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded21 June 1944
Commenced operations15 August 1947
HubsTocumen International Airport (Panama City)
Focus citiesJuan Santamaría International Airport
Frequent-flyer programConnectMiles
AllianceStar Alliance
Copa Airlines Colombia
Fleet size75
Parent companyCopa Holdings, S.A.
Traded asNYSECPA
HeadquartersPanama City, Panama
Key peoplePedro Heilbron (CEO)
Jose Montero (CFO)
RevenueIncrease US$2.678 billion (FY 2018)[1]
Operating incomeDecrease US$145.0 million (FY 2018)[1]
Net incomeDecrease US$88.1 million (FY 2018)[1]
Employees9,450 (2018)
Websiteofficial website
Some Copa Airlines planes aligned at Tocumen International Airport.

Compañía Panameña de Aviación, S.A., (commonly referred to as Copa and branded simply as "Copa Airlines")[2] is the flag carrier of Panama. It is headquartered in Panama City, Panama,[1] with its main hub at Tocumen International Airport. Copa is a subsidiary of Copa Holdings, S.A. as well as a member of Star Alliance.[3] The airline is also the main operator and owner of Colombian airline AeroRepública, currently known as Copa Airlines Colombia.

Copa was founded in 1947 and it began domestic operations to three cities in Panama shortly afterwards. The airline then abandoned its domestic flights in 1980, in favor of international flights. In 1998, Copa formed a partnership with Continental Airlines, adopting a new brand image and the OnePass frequent flyer program and later replaced by MileagePlus, which was replaced by ConnectMiles in July 2015.[4]



The airline was established as Compañía Panameña de Aviación (hence the acronym COPA) on June 21, 1944, and started operations on August 15, 1947. It was founded by a group of prominent Panamanian investors with assistance from Pan American World Airways, who took a 32% stake. It began operating domestic flights with a small fleet of Douglas DC-3 aircraft. The airline started its first international flights in the early 1970s, with services to cities in Jamaica, Colombia, and Costa Rica. Turboprop aircraft operated by Copa included the Hawker Siddeley HS 748 and Lockheed L-188 Electra.[5]

Until the early 1980s, the airline had significant competition from Air Panamá Internacional, which had a higher profile. Copa discontinued domestic flights in 1980 and acquired its first jet, a Boeing 737-100. Today the airline operates flights to a number of destinations in the U.S. and Canada including Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Montreal (YUL), New Orleans (MSY), New York City (JFK), Orlando (MCO), San Francisco (SFO), Tampa (TPA), Toronto (YYZ), and Washington, D.C. (IAD) as well as to other destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America.[6] Until the introduction of the Embraer 190 in 2005, the airline had an all-Boeing 737 fleet.

Expansion years[edit]

Expansion continued during the 1990s, when it began service to Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; Bogotá, Colombia; Havana, Cuba; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Lima, Peru; Mexico City, Mexico; Caracas, Venezuela; and many other important Latin American cities.

In 1992 Copa Airlines signed a strategic alliance with TACA Airlines (now Avianca El Salvador), and the airline began flying from Tocumen International Airport, making it the first flight connection center in Latin America. As a result, Tocumen was dubbed as the “Hub of the Americas” and several Latin American airlines such as LACSA of Costa Rica, Aviateca of Guatemala, and NICA of Nicaragua joined the alliance. The alliance ended in 1998 when the six-year agreement expired.

In 1998 Continental Airlines acquired 49% of the airline, marking the beginning of a comprehensive marketing and operating alliance. On May 19, 1999, Continental increased its stake to 51%. Since then, Copa has adopted a livery and corporate logo similar to Continental's (now United). Copa participated in the OnePass frequent flyer program until Continental's merger with United Airlines. In connection with the initial public offering in December 2005, Continental reduced its stake to approximately 27.3% and through a follow-on offering in 2006, further reduced it to approximately 10%.[1]

Since 1980, the Boeing 737 has been a backbone for the medium-long haul expansion of Copa Airlines. Pictured; a Boeing 737-800 at LAX.

In 2000, Copa Airlines inaugurated service to Los Angeles, Cancún, and Orlando, as well as to São Paulo; in 2001, it began service to Quito, Ecuador. In 2004, it began service to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Copa also announced in August of that year a codeshare agreement with Mexico's Mexicana de Aviación, which lasted until 2007.

On June 1, 2005, Copa Airlines acquired 90% of the Colombian domestic air carrier AeroRepública, having earlier announced a codeshare plan with the carrier. Copa rebranded AeroRepública to Copa Airlines Colombia in 2010, increased destinations and modernized the fleet. On December 15, 2005, parent company Copa Holdings, S.A., launched an IPO of 14 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange thus becoming the fourth Latin American airline to be traded on the exchange, after LAN Airlines of Chile and Brazilian carriers Gol Transportes Aéreos and TAM Airlines.

In 2006, Copa Airlines began service to six new destinations: Manaus, Brazil; Maracaibo, Venezuela; Montevideo, Uruguay; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. In addition, Copa Airlines took delivery of six Embraer 190s and two Boeing 737s. In 2007, Copa Airlines added services to Córdoba, Argentina; Guadalajara, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; and Washington, D.C. Copa Airlines added four Embraer 190s and two Boeing 737s (-800 series). That same year, the airline joined the SkyTeam alliance as an associate member.

Embraer 190, mainly deployed for regional flights across Central America and Colombia.

During 2008, Copa Airlines added five new destinations and received four Embraer 190s and one Boeing 737-800. The new destinations are Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Valencia, Venezuela; Oranjestad, Aruba; and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. In May 2008, Continental Airlines sold its remaining 4.38 million shares of Copa Airlines for $35.75 a share, yielding a net profit of approximately $149.8 million.[7]

That same year, Copa Airlines' CEO Pedro Heilbron announced on the ALTA airline leaders forum in Cancún that the airline had decided to leave SkyTeam and were in exclusive talks with Star Alliance.[8]

In 2009, Copa Airlines announced it would withdraw from SkyTeam on October 24, the same date that partner Continental Airlines left the alliance.[9] The company added two Boeing 737-800s.[10] and announced a firm order for 13 Boeing 737-800s with the new Boeing signature "Sky Interior".[11]

In 2010, Copa Airlines began service to St. Maarten, received nine Boeing 737-800s and announced that it would join Star Alliance in mid-2012 to rejoin old partner Continental Airlines (now United) and become the first Latin American airline to join the alliance. That same year, Copa Airlines announced a firm order to purchase 32 Boeing 737-800 planes valued at $1.7 billion, thus becoming the largest plane order in the airline's history. The Boeing 737-800 are set for delivery between 2015 and 2018, with an option to acquire ten additional 737-800 aircraft.[12]

In 2011, Copa Airlines began service to Toronto; Brasilia and Porto Alegre, Brazil; Chicago; Cúcuta, Colombia; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Monterrey, Mexico and Asunción, Paraguay;[13][14][15][16] and Nassau, The Bahamas. It also passed from a four bank hub to a six bank hub and increased frequencies to several destinations.[clarification needed]

In June 2012, Copa Airlines became one of the first Latin American airlines to enter Star Alliance.

That same year, Copa Airlines launched a mobile version of its website (, giving passengers the chance to get a mobile pass and check flight status and other services. Additionally, the airline announced a new codeshare agreement with TAME, which became effective in January 2012. Copa Airlines also became the first airline in Latin America to have the new Boeing 737-800NG Sky Interior with improved performance in its fleet.

In 2012, the company announced five new destinations: Las Vegas, United States; Recife, Brazil; Willemstad, Curaçao; Liberia, Costa Rica; and Iquitos, Peru.[17][18] On June of the same year, Copa Airlines became an official member of Star Alliance along with AviancaTaca.

Copa also increased flight frequencies to several destinations and inaugurated an interline agreement with Air Panama (Panama's second-largest airline) which consists of the linkage of all tourist destinations in Panama with those in Latin America. The agreement became effective June 1, 2012, when Air Panama began flights from Tocumen airport to Isla Colón, Bocas del Toro.[19]

In 2013, Copa increased the frequency to several destinations and included two new destinations in the United States: Boston and Tampa.[20][21]

Aviation Partners Boeing (APB) announced on 10 October 2013, that Copa Airlines placed an order to retrofit some of its existing Boeing Next Generation 737s' blended winglets with APB's new split scimitar winglets, as part of its environmental strategy. The new APB winglet technology will save Copa more than $21 million in jet fuel costs fleetwide and more than 63,000 tons of carbon dioxide CO
outputs per year.[22]

In January 2014, Copa Airlines announced three new destinations and revealed its business strategy for the year, which included the delivery of eight new Boeing 737-800 aircraft and the increase of flight frequencies to some destinations. The new destinations are Montreal, Canada; Fort Lauderdale, United States and Georgetown, Guyana.[23] In July, it added Campinas, Brazil; and Santa Clara, Cuba.[24] In April 2014, Copa Airlines became the first airline in Latin America and the third in the world to implement the Split Scimitar Winglets on its Boeing 737 NG fleet.

In January 2015, the airline achieved a milestone in its history when it re-launched daily domestic flights to David, Chiriquí, the first ones since the closure of the route three decades earlier. Also, Copa Airlines announced new flights to Villahermosa and Puebla, Mexico; and New Orleans, United States.[25] Three months later, the airline announced another new destination In the U.S: San Francisco, California, United States.[26] In July 2015, Copa Airlines announced service to Belize City which began in December 2015.[27]

Copa Airlines is Latin America's first Boeing 737 MAX 9 operator.

In April 2015, the airline announced an order for 61 Boeing 737 MAX 8/9 aircraft worth $6.6 billion at list price.[28]

On June 21, 2016, the airline started flights to Holguín.[29] On June 28, 2016, the airline started flights to Chiclayo.[30] On July 1, 2016, the airline started flights to Rosario.[31]

The airline also owns Wingo in Colombia, a low cost airline that began operations in December 2016.[32]

On November 15, 2017, the airline started flights to Mendoza, Argentina.[33] On December 11, 2017, the airline started flights to Denver, United States.[34]

On January 29, 2018, Copa Airlines announced that it would start flights to Bridgetown, Barbados on July 17, 2018; Fortaleza, Brazil on July 18, 2018; and Salvador da Bahia, Brazil on July 24, 2018.[35]

On December 12, 2018, the airline started flights to Salta, Argentina.[36] On December 16, 2018, the airline started flights to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.[37]

On January 17, 2019, the airline announced flights to Paramaribo, Suriname; which commenced on July 6, 2019.[38]


Copa Airlines currently flies to 80 destinations in 33 countries in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

Codeshare agreements[edit]

Copa Airlines codeshares with the following airlines:[39]


Current Fleet[edit]

As of February 2021, the Copa Airlines fleet consists of the following Boeing aircraft:[43][44]

Copa Airlines fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Passengers Notes
J Y Total
Boeing 737-800 62 16 138 154
144 160
Boeing 737 MAX 8 33 TBA First Latin American operator of the Boeing 737 MAX 9.
Number of aircraft per variant has yet to be determined.[45]
Boeing 737 MAX 9 13 16 150 166[46]
Boeing 737 MAX 10 15 TBA [47]
Total 75 48
  • Copa Airlines was the first Latin American customer of the Embraer 190. The airline also operated the longest scheduled Boeing 737-700 flight in the world between Panama City and Montevideo, Uruguay, until it was overtaken by Scandinavian Airlines's Stavanger to Houston service. The route regained the title when the SAS service closed in October 2015.[48][49]
  • In October 2004, Copa Airlines announced an order to purchase ten Embraer 190 aircraft with options for an additional 20 aircraft. Later orders were increased by exercising five options. Six aircraft were delivered in the first quarter of 2007.
  • In May 2007, the airline made firm commitments to purchase four Boeing 737-800 and ten Embraer E-190, representing an investment of approximately $1.1 billion.[50]
  • On 16 July 2009, the airline announced an order for 13 Boeing 737-800 aircraft that came with the new Boeing's signature "Sky Interior".[11]
  • In November 2010, Copa and Boeing announced the purchase of 22 Boeing 737-800 planes, set for delivery between 2015 and 2018, with an option to acquire ten more Boeing 737-800, valued approximately at $1.7 billion. This was the largest plane order in Copa Airlines history until the purchase of 61 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in April 2015, valued approximately at $6.6 billion.
  • In April 2013, Copa Airlines received from Boeing the first of the Next-Generation 737s (A Boeing 737-800, registration HP-1831CMP) produced at High Production Rate.[51]
  • In April 2014, the carrier received its first Boeing 737-800 (registration HP-1836CMP) with Split Scimitar winglets and expects to retrofit all the Boeing 737s with the new winglets.
  • In 2012, Copa showed interest in acquiring the re-engineered Boeing 737 MAX family. In April 2015, the airline placed a firm order for 61 Boeing 737 MAX-8 and MAX-9 aircraft. The number of aircraft for each variant has yet to be published.[52]
  • In November 2015, Copa Airlines announced the gradual retirement of the Embraer 190 fleet, in favor of the Boeing 737s. One was sold in late 2019, and the remaining 14 were sold to Australia's Alliance Airlines in 2020.[53]

Former Fleet[edit]

Copa Airlines formerly operated the following aircraft:[54]

Copa Airlines former fleet
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes
Boeing 727-100 1 1986 1986 [55]
Boeing 737-100 2 1980 1993
Boeing 737-200 22 1988 2005
Boeing 737-700 20 1999 2020
Convair 240
Convair 340
3 1967 1969
Curtiss C-46 Un­known 1956 1958
Douglas DC-3 Un­known 1947 1980
Douglas DC-8-50F 1 Un­known Un­known [56]
Embraer 190AR 15 2005 2020
Hawker Siddeley HS 748 2 1969 1978
Lockheed L-188A Electra 3 1971 1986
Martin 4-0-4 Un­known 1961 1965


During the last 20 years, Copa Airlines has used these liveries on their aircraft.

Since its founding in 1947, Copa Airlines used several liveries during the update of its fleet from turboprops to jetliners. Also, it has special liveries within its fleet. In November 2003, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Panama, Copa Airlines adorned its fleet of Boeing 737-700s with a special livery depicting the official centennial logo and portrait of the first president of Panama, Manuel Amador Guerrero.

In 2006, a Copa Airlines Embraer 190 sported a special livery denoting it was the 200th Embraer 190 produced by the Brazilian plane manufacturer Embraer.

On 3 February 2011, the Tourism Authority of Panama worked alongside Copa Airlines to create a special livery for a Boeing 737-800 (registered HP-1534CMP) depicting a butterfly logo of Panama and the URL "". This was part of an effort to promote tourism in Panama. As of 2013, the plane no longer has the logo on the left forward side.

On 6 March 2012, a new Copa Airlines Boeing 737-800 (registered HP-1728CMP) carried the Star Alliance livery. Also, it introduced a redesigned font style in the Copa Airlines' logo. This plane was inactive until 21 June, when it was exhibited in the celebration of the company's official integration to Star Alliance. The aircraft began service six days later, making the first scheduled non-stop passenger flight from Panama to Las Vegas. On 30 May 2012, another new Boeing 737-800 (registered HP-1823CMP) received the Star Alliance livery.

Copa received a new Boeing 737-800 (registered HP-1825CMP, shown at the right) in October 2012, sporting a livery depicting Frank Gehry's Biomuseo, a museum that opened in Panama City in October 2013.

In March 2013, a newly built Boeing 737-800 for Copa Airlines (registered HP-1830CMP) was painted with the Star Alliance livery scheme. This was the third aircraft in the fleet with the former Star Alliance livery.

In August 2014, Copa Airlines worked with the Panama Canal Authority to launch a special campaign in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal. The campaign included the implementation of a special livery, which has a graphic image of the locks, on the back of two Boeing 737-800 aircraft and is expected to be implemented on more than 40 aircraft of the fleet.

From 1947 to present, Copa Airlines has used the following liveries:

  • Compañia Panameña de Aviación - (1947–1961)
  • Vuele Copa - (1961–1965)
  • Copa Panama (original) - White fuselage with a red or green cheatline (1965–1971)
  • Copa Panama (1st upgrade) - Red and orange cheatline with white fuselage (1971–1980)
  • Copa Panama (2nd upgrade) - Red and yellow cheatline with white fuselage (1980–1990)
  • Copa "Billboard Style" - Red and yellow cheatline with white fuselage, and "Copa" logo in the front part of the widebody and tail. (1990–1999)
  • Copa Airlines - white and gray fuselage, with gold cheatline in the middle, and the well-known globe logo. (1999–present)

The white and gray livery has been used by Copa Airlines since 1999, after Continental raised its ownership of the company to 51% in that year. Although Continental ceased operations in March 2012 as a result of its merger with United Airlines, Copa and United still use the same "globe" logo design, but the rest of their liveries are different.


A Copa Airlines Boeing 737-800 departing Los Angeles International Airport, in California (2014).

Business Class[edit]

Business seats are available on all aircraft except for one Embraer 190 variant, which is an all-economy aircraft. Business Class passengers check in at separate counters and are given priority with boarding and baggage handling, access to the Copa/United Club and other airline lounges, and bonus miles for the MileagePlus program. In-flight service includes pre-departure beverages, multi course meals, and pillows and blankets (depending on the type and duration of the flight) on international flights. Business Class also is equipped with reclinable leather seats with footrests and adjustable headrest, a 110-volt power outlet, a large tray table, a USB port, and a personal Audio-Video-on-Demand (AVOD) screen.

On long-haul flights, a courtesy kit containing toiletry items, hot towels and bottled water are offered.

Economy Class[edit]

Economy seats are available on all aircraft. Economy seats on brand-new Boeing 737-800s feature an adjustable headrest and a personal AVOD with a 5 inches (13 cm) touch screen, while older 737-800s provide entertainment on flip down screens above the seats. All Boeing 737 and Embraer E-190 are also equipped with a radio antenna, which allows passengers to listen a wide list of songs and instrumentals from twelve channels. Food and snacks are available on domestic, short, and some medium-haul international flights. Full meals are complimentary on all other medium and long-haul international flights. Alcoholic drinks are complimentary for economy passengers on all flights.


Copa Airlines in the Connect Miles livery on their Embraer 190 at Princess Juliana Airport (SXM)

ConnectMiles is Copa Airlines' frequent flyer program, offering frequent travelers the ability to purchase tickets with miles. Customers accrue miles from flight segments flown on Copa Airlines, United Airlines, and other Star Alliance member airlines. Benefits of Premier status include priority check-in, priority boarding, complimentary upgrades, and discounted airport lounge memberships (United Club/Copa Club). Due to the Continental-United merger, Copa Airlines phased out the OnePass frequent flyer program on December 31, 2011, and adopted the MileagePlus program on March 3, 2012.[57]

In March 2015, Copa Airlines announced that it would phase out the MileagePlus program in favor of a new frequent flyer program called ConnectMiles.[58][59] The new program was fully implemented on July 1, 2015.

Copa Club[edit]

Copa Club is the membership airport lounge program of Copa Airlines jointly operated with United Airlines. Copa Club lounge is located in its hub at Tocumen International Airport, Panama City, Panama. The lounges offer amenities for travelers and members also have access to affiliated lounges around the world. The Copa Club locations in Central America and the Caribbean includes:

Incidents and accidents[edit]

During its history, Copa Airlines had the following incidents and accidents:

Copa Airlines Reported Incidents
Flight Date Aircraft Location Description Casualties
Fatal Serious Minor Uninjured Ground
201[60] June 6, 1992 Boeing 737-200 near Tucutí, Darien Flight 201, a leased Boeing 737-200 Advanced (registered HP-1205CMP), flipped and crashed in the Darién Gap during a flight from Panama City to Cali after an instrument failure. All forty passengers and the seven crew members lost their lives. This is the first and only fatal accident in Copa Airlines history to date. 47 0 0 0 0
301[61] November 19, 1993 Boeing 737-100 Tocumen International Airport The plane (registered HP-873CMP) was damaged beyond repair, when it veered off the runway upon landing at Tocumen International Airport at 19:19 local time following a flight from Miami, Florida, with 86 passengers and six crew members. The pilots had not managed to properly align the aircraft with the runway because of severe crosswinds, which led to the nosegear being torn off. There were no reported injuries. 0 0 0 92 0


Since its foundation in 1947, Copa Airlines has suffered one hijacking attempt:

  • On 7 August 1994, a hijacking attempt occurred on board a Copa flight from Panama City to Guatemala City. Then it was reported as a misunderstanding by Panamanian authorities.[62]


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External links[edit]

Media related to Copa Airlines at Wikimedia Commons