Copa Airlines restarts US flights after five-month coronavirus hiatus

Aug 15, 2020

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Copa Airlines returns to Miami and New York later in August after suspending regular flights for more than five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Panama-based Star Alliance carrier will return to Miami (MIA) and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) with one or two weekly flights beginning on Aug. 21, according to Cirium schedules and confirmed by Copa. Travelers will be able to connect in Panama City (PTY) to at least four other destinations in Latin America initially.

Copa’s restart comes after it set down its scheduled passenger operations in March due to COVID-19. Travelers are only allowed to transit through Panama City, while local arrival restrictions remain in place.

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In addition to Miami and New York, Copa will serve eight destinations in Latin America via Panama City, which CEO Pedro Heilbron called a sort of “mini-hub” in comments to investors on Aug. 5. Destinations include Guayaquil (GYE) and Quito (UIO) in Ecuador; Havana (HAV); Mexico City (MEX); Santiago, Chile (SCL); Santo Domingo (SDQ); São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU); and San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO).

“Once we’re up in the air flying with a small network, it’s very easy to take it from there and just increase service as demand shows up,” Heilbron said indicating that Copa plans to ramp up its schedule as travel restrictions ease.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Copa is one of the few major Latin American carriers that has not filed for bankruptcy since the crisis began. Aeromexico, Avianca and LATAM Airlines are all restructuring through the Chapter 11 process in the U.S. due to the impact of the pandemic on their businesses.

This does not mean the airline is immune to the crisis. Copa accelerated the retirement of its 14 Embraer E190s and is removing its 14 Boeing 737-700s. After the pandemic, the airline plans to fly just 737-800s and 737 MAXes.

In addition to being a Star member, Copa is a close partner of United Airlines. It is also working with United, Avianca and Azul on a possible four-way joint venture between the U.S. and South America that would allow the airlines to coordinate flights and ease travel for flyers.

Related: Air travel won’t return to pre-coronvirus levels until 2023, airline group predicts

Featured image by Alberto Riva / TPG.

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