Copa Airlines will add less capacity in 2013 than this year, but still expects to grow by 10-15%, says CEO Pedro Heilbron.
The Panamanian carrier this year expects to increase supply 23% on top if a 2011 growth of almost 22%, but Heilbron, speaking to Aviation Week today after addressing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, acknowledges that “the last two years have been ones of unprecedented growth . . . Next year, we will return to our historical average for growth.”
That expansion will still reach double digits, says Heilbron, although now ranging between 10% and 15%. Most of this expansion will continue the 2012 strategy of adding frequencies to existing routes, although Heilbron notes that “few” new markets will be announced in January.
Copa has identified 30 underserved markets in North, South and Central America, including Toronto, Las Vegas and Washington, where it could add flights, the airline’s CEO adds. The carrier has 37 firm orders for-800s, with options for 16 more. At the end of the second quarter, it operated a fleet of 80 737s.
The airline reported 17% margins in the first half of this year and expects to continue this growth into next year, even as other Latin America carriers struggle to maintain profits. “We are focused on our operations. We are also in Panama, which is a growing logistics hub for the world,” says Heilbron.
Panama also should benefit from a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Panama that Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro detailed in a key note speech during the Chamber of Commerce event, although Heilbron does not expect any immediate effect on Copa’s traffic. However, he notes that by clearing regulatory hurdles for multinational companies to establish operations in Panama the airline will eventually benefit from the pact.