Copa Airlines to become an all-Boeing carrier

Nov 16, 2019

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Panama’s Copa Airlines will join the rarified ranks all-Boeing 737 operators, like Southwest Airlines, with its plans to retire the Embraer E190s.

Copa will accelerate the retirement of the 14 E190s in its fleet by three years with plans to have the type out of its fleet by the beginning of 2021, executives said on a quarterly earnings call Thursday.

The move will see Copa become an all-737 operator, including of the beleaguered 737 MAX, when the E190s are gone. The airline operated 82 737s, not including the MAX, at the end of September.

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“There will be cost and [efficiency] advantages from a simpler fleet,” said Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa, during the call.

Copa will replace the E190s in its fleet with new 737 MAX jets, he said. The carrier expects its six 737 MAX 9s to return to service around mid-February, and deliveries to resume in the first quarter.

The airline anticipates at least 13 MAX deliveries in 2020.


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Copa currently operates 14 E190s with up to 100 seats. The jets fly between the airline’s Panama City (PTY) hub and 35 cities in Latin America, including Bogota (BOG), Guadalajara (GDL) and Lima (LIM), in November, according to Cirium schedule data.

Related: Flying Copa (Embraer 190, Boeing 737) in Coach From Guatemala to NYC via Panama

Copa Airlines Embraer E190 routes in November 2019. (Image by Cirium)
Copa Airlines Embraer E190 routes in November 2019. (Image by Cirium)

While the MAX will replace the E190s in Copa’s fleet, routes flown with the E-Jets will shift to smaller 737s, including the 737-700, said Heilbron. This will reduce the downward pressure on fares that may result from the added seats in smaller markets.

Copa is one of several carriers retiring the E190 in the next few years. In 2020 alone, American Airlines will retire its 20 E190s, and Air Canada and JetBlue Airways will begin replacing their E-Jets with Airbus A220s. Avianca plans to remove the type by the end of this year.

All of the carriers cite cost and operating benefits from removing the type in favor of either Airbus A319s, like at American and Avianca, or new generation A220s, like at Air Canada and JetBlue.

Copa is a codeshare partner with United Airlines. The two carriers are in the process of forming an expansive joint venture partnership with Avianca and Azul covering flights between Latin America and the U.S.

Related: Azul could join giant Latin America alliance sought by United, Avianca, Copa

Featured image by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

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