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Copa Airlines’ first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. (Photo: Copa Airlines)

Copa Airlines To Resume 737 MAX Flights in 2021

Amid the recent ungrounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, many airlines are reinstating the service of their MAX fleets. Copa Airlines will be the latest airline to reintroduce 737 MAX service starting Jan. 4, 2021.

Panama Recertification

Panama’s Civil Aviation Authority is the latest to give the green light to the Boeing 737 MAX’s operation. According to Panamanian aviation lawyer Felipe Escalona, the following guidelines were necessary for the 737MAX to return to service in Panama:

  1. The FAA has recertified the Boeing 737 MAX.
  2. Copa Airlines must complete all recertification guidelines from the FAA.
  3. The flight simulator software, certified by the Civil Aviation Authority, shall have the changes reflected in the newest update of the Boeing 737 MAX.
  4. All Copa Airlines pilots trained to fly the 737 MAX fleet must complete the new training authorized by Panama’s Civil Aviation Authority.
  5. Copa Airlines must follow all maintenance guidelines issued by Boeing.
  6. Copa Airlines must operate at least a thirty-minute passengerless flight under conditions determined by the Civil Aviation Authority.

All of the measures necessary have been completed by the Panama City-based carrier. Copa Airlines plans to fly multiple flights without passengers on all its 737 MAX aircraft. Currently, the airline has performed these flights on three of its six 737 MAX 9 aircraft.

In an internal memo to the employees of Copa Airlines, CEO Pedro Hellibron said, “Committed to the safety of our crews and passengers, from the beginning, we included in the configuration of the aircraft, indication systems and alerts that were optional, allowing our pilots to have a greater situational awareness during the flight.  Additionally, since mid-2018 we defined and established a robust training program for our MAX fleet pilots, which was strengthened with the acquisition and commissioning of the flight simulator for MAX aircraft models.”

Boeing 737 MAX Destinations

Copa Airlines will reinstate its 737 MAX 9 initially on its Los Angeles route on Jan. 4, 2021. Flight 472 will depart Panama City at 6 p.m. and arrive at Los Angeles at 10:12 p.m.

On Jan. 7, 2021, Copa Airlines will start Boeing 737 MAX service to five more destinations including Guayaquil, Ecuador; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; San Francisco; San Jose, Costa Rica and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Previously, Copa Airlines utilized the Boeing 737 MAX 9 on its longer routes like Buenos Aires; Montevideo, Uruguay and São Paulo, Brazil.

The flag carrier of Panama operates its Boeing 737 MAX 9 with 166 seats. It features 22 business class seats in a 2-2 configuration, 24 premium economy seats in a 3-3 configuration, and 126 economy seats in a 3-3 configuration.

Future of Copa Airlines and Boeing’s 737 MAX

Currently, the airline has a fleet of 63 Boeing 737-800s and six Boeing 737 MAX 9s. Two more Boeing 737 MAX 9s are scheduled to join the fleet by the end of 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, the carrier will receive another five MAX aircraft. Looking ahead, Copa Airlines will have 55 Boeing 737 MAX’s, including 15 Boeing 737 MAX 10s.

Financially, Copa Airlines is one of the only Latin American carriers to avoid Chapter 11 bankruptcy, unlike its competitors, Aeromexico, Avianca and LATAM. Excluding special items, Copa Airlines reported a net loss of $121.6 million in the most recent quarter. Additionally, the carrier has $1.3 billion of available liquidity. Its financial standing will help it retain its position as one of the top players in the Latin American aviation industry.

Copa Airlines is following its fellow Latin American counterparts in reinstating service to the Boeing 737MAX. For example, the Brazilian carrier GOL was the first to reinstate its services on the Boeing 737 MAX.  Other airlines like Aeromexico have already resumed their 737 MAX flights, while airlines like American and United plan to restart services within the next few months.

Winston Shek
Winston Shek
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