The Adrian Loveridge Column – COPA!
The announcement of the long awaited twice weekly (Tuesdays and Fridays) direct service by COPA from Panama to Barbados is great news in my humble opinion and offers infinite possibilities for us to grow arrival numbers out of Central and South America. Not just from Panama alone, but the incredible hub and spoke system that COPA operates, which in the majority of cases offers seamless connections without further customs and immigration control and baggage re-checking, within an average of 90 minutes for most connecting flights.
COPA currently services 75 destinations across 31 countries and last year carried 13.5 million passengers. This year that number is expected to rise to 14.4 million helped by the introduction of new aircraft including the fuel saving state-of-the art Boeing B737 Max 9 and 10 fitted with the quieter CFM International LEAP-1B engines and according to the manufacturers offers the lowest cost per seat mile anywhere.
COPA already boasts one of the youngest airline fleets in the Americas with an average aircraft age of 7.2 years (source: Airfleets.net).
The Barbados service will initially be operated by the smaller Brazilian made Embraer 190 with a seating capacity of 94 passengers, carrying 10 business class and 84 in economy.
Commenting on the new route which is expected to start in July, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, William “Billy’ Griffith stated ‘The COPA service, I consider, is our best attempt to date to develop sustained, successful service out of the Latin American market. COPA already has service to some Caribbean destinations and they have a very strong COPA vacations department which will be key to our marketing efforts’.
No arguments there. From a Panama perspective, we have the historic ties and canal building connection to build on.
While our cruise ship options are limited during the summer months, perhaps there is scope for a home porting opportunity, joining or leaving Panama or Barbados with a nonstop flight link.
Hopefully too, our various foreign diplomatic missions will step up to the plate and attract trade missions to give our tourism industry (among others) greater choices of sourcing essential consumables.
While it’s almost twenty years since last visiting Brazil, I still vividly recall the agro producers and processors and the almost limitless selection of fruits, vegetables and seafood options available at highly competitive prices. Air freight can often be just as profitable, based on a weight-to-weight comparison with human passengers, so maybe our distributers and wholesalers will also explore these new possibilities.
All our tourism partners, if they have not already, should also consider adding a Portuguese and Spanish language translation icon and link on their websites to allow potential travellers to better research the destination and its attractions.
Of course new routes are only sustainable if the flights operate close to capacity in both directions and we can only hope that COPA will adopt the model that some of our low cost carriers have successfully used to drive new business by offering attractive fares.
A huge advantage will be, in many cases, that you will be no longer forced to fly nearly four hours to the north, connecting in Miami and fly the same time and distance south again, to reach a South American city.