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Copa Airlines Pushes Back Restart for Fourth Time
The Panamanian carrier Copa Airlines was repeatedly forced to modify the restart date of regular operations. According to ALNNEWS, the Civil Aeronautical Authority (CAA), extended for the fourth time the suspension that weighs since March 22 on commercial aviation in Panama.
Due to the suspension of flying until August 22, Copa Airlines reported that the new restart date would be September 5. With this new postponement, the 102 aircraft fleet will have been grounded for a total of 6 months.
As announced, Peter Cerdá, IATA’s Regional Vice President for the Americas, declared that “Panama runs the risk of falling behind other regional centers that have received the support of their authorities. The government has not taken any initiative or given financial support to provide tangible relief to the aviation industry.”
According to La Prensa, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that in the first half of the year, the Panamanian air sector has stopped receiving $820 million in revenues. IATA has suggested more than one occasion that the authorities need to provide support to aviation companies, the authorities denied the petitions.
With this decision, the Panamanian government has forced airlines to remain suspended from operating. Aero-naves expects the only operations that will be allowed are repatriation and cargo flights, as well as flights with medical equipment to face the COVID-19 pandemic. Aviation in Panama contributes more than $8.5 billion every year to the economy, which represents around 14% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
As published in May, Copa Airlines has not requested support from the Panamanian government to overcome the crisis. Instead, Copa Holding S.A., which is the Copa Airlines parent company, obtained lines of credit and offered bonds in the international market for a global amount of $350 million, deferred non-essential expenses and the distribution of dividends this year. These bonds are convertible, with a term of five years, in which holders will have the option to convert them into shares of Copa Holdings S.A.
The announcement of this new extension was not expected, even after Copa Airlines and Tocumen International Airport published videos showing the sanitary and hygiene measures that will be carried out once the airline resume operations and the new procedures stated at the airport.
In the meantime, the Panamanian Ministry of Health informed that a humanitarian “mini-hub” would be set up at Tocumen International Airport to allow travelers and Panamanians who want to move to other destinations to board transit flights arriving in the country.
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