Interview: Copa Airlines CEO on Building the «Hub of the Americas» in Panama
In the last year, Copa Airlines’ stock price has more than doubled, rising roughly 135 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.
What do investors know that casual flyers might not?
Panama’s flag carrier is among the best-run — and most consistently profitable — carriers in the Americas, even though its home country does not have one the region’s overall largest economies. In the first quarter, Copa reported net income of $102 million with an operating margin of 19%. Last year, its net income was $339.8 million, with a 12.4%margin.
The airline’s model is simple. Copa relies on a well-placed hub in Panama City to connect passengers between most destinations in the Americas. Through what it calls “the hub of the Americas”, Copa carries passengers between places like New Orleans, and Manaus, Brazil, or from Cordoba, Argentina to Havana. In all, the airline flies to more than 70 destinations in the Americas, including big ones, like New York and Mexico City, and smaller ones, like San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Copa flies only two types of single-aisle plane types, the Embraer E190, and the Boeing 737. It flies its Boeing 737s longer than most airlines, sometimes flying them for nearly seven hours, including from Panama City to Buenos Aires. But the aircraft is fuel-efficient, and like Southwest Airlines, an all-737 operator, Copa can control costs by sticking to one aircraft type for longer routes.