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Connecting North & South With Copa’s Hub Of The Americas





Copa Airlines is now an all-Boeing 737 operator, with the 737 used on routes up to 3,385 miles. Fundamental to Copa is its so-called ‘Hub of the Americas’, which has very well-coordinated waves and high frequencies. It has 79 destinations in the first week of November, with the carrier’s Panama City hub – linking the Americas – explored below.

Copa has 79 destinations from its ‘Hub of the Americas’ in Panama City in the first week of November. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Copa Airlines is a hub-and-spoke airline based in Panama. Its purpose is to link North America, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean using its excellently positioned Panama City ‘Hub of the Americas’. This has:

  1. A central geographic location and favorable climate which allows it to be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
  2. Fast connections without the need to clear immigration and customs
  3. Two runways
  4. Sea-level height that allows aircraft to extend their range, especially important for Copa
Copa’s connections are around 90 minutes in Panama City. Image: Copa Airlines

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All narrowbodies

COPA’s fleet now comprises one aircraft: the Boeing 737. Its website says it has 62 in all, two less than it had in 2012, comprising:

  1. 36x 154-seat Boeing 737-800s
  2. 26x 160-seat Boeing 737-800s
  3. Nine 166-seat B737 MAX 9s

Like many airlines, COPA’s fleet has streamlined since coronavirus shook up the world. It retired its Embraer 190s, which were acquired in 2020 by Australia’s Alliance Airlines, and it removed its lower-capacity B737-700s.

While this was fleet commonality was inevitable – it said it wanted to speed up the exit of its Embraers even before COVID was known – it has resulted in less flexible seating and the inability to right-size routes and flights to demand. After all, its Embraers had 94 to 106 seats, while its B737-700s had 124.


This was especially important in developing routes and offering higher frequencies, crucial for the carrier’s hub. However, cost savings from a more uniform fleet – together with lower seat-mile costs from bigger aircraft – no doubt offsets this.

New York JFK, where this photo was taken, will be 21-weekly this November. This is one higher than it had in the same week in 2019, although many routes are understandably lower. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

79 destinations from Panama City

In the first week of November, so the first week of the IATA winter season, COPA has 79 destinations from Panama City. These are broken down as:


  • 34 in South America
  • 16 in the Caribbean
  • 15 in North America
  • 13 in Central America (excluding domestic)
  • One domestic

These 79 destinations are across 33 countries. Of these, the US has the most seats, as shown below.

  1. USA: 62,688 two-way seats
  2. Colombia: 40,228;
  3. Mexico: 29,228
  4. Brazil: 25,472
  5. Dominican Republic: 21,780

Copa has 11 US destinations in this week, with Miami predictably top with 42 weekly departures (six-daily), followed by Orlando with 35 (five-daily). Two more routes – Denver and New Orleans – will resume later.

Although it may change, Copa has 79 destinations from Panama City. Image: OAG.

Hub of the Americas

Copa has well-defined arrivals and departures, with six clear waves in all. A wave comprises one arrivals bank and one of departures, as is illustrated below. This high level of coordination means that connections are often around 90 minutes.


Key in this are high frequencies, resulting in greater convenience, usability, and competitiveness. In fact, Copa has an average of 15 departures in this week, analyzing OAG data shows. Yet, some 15 routes have a minimum of 35 departures, or five a daily. These include San Jose (Costa Rica), its most-served with 63 weekly, followed by Bogota, Cancun, Havana, Lima, Medellin, and Miami. This is reasonably low when compared to pre-COVID days.

Santiago to Panama City

Consider a random example: Santiago (Chile) to Cancun. Copa has 35 weekly departures to Santiago and 49 to Cancun. Outbound from Santiago to Cancun, the options would be:

Santiago to Panama City:

  • 0127-0613
  • 0132-0622 (that is correct; leaving five minutes later!)
  • 0321-0807
  • 0600-1046
  • 1204-1652

Panama City to Cancun

  • 0736-1020
  • 0739-1023 (three minutes later)
  • 0952-1237
  • 0953-1246 (one minute later!)
  • 1212-1452
  • 1238-1518 (26 minutes later)
  • 1902-2141
Long flights by the 737 are a hallmark of Copa. Its longest route in this week is Panama City to Montevideo, at 3,385 miles. If block time is considered, San Francisco is the longest, at up to seven hours and 51 minutes to the California airport. Photo:

Copa has many core markets which it strongly defends, helped by its high presence to them. It has also has a close, positive relationship with the Panamian government. This is similar to that between Ethiopian Airlines and the Ethiopian government, which has been part of that airline’s success.

Another, more obvious ‘success element’ is its disciplined approach and genuine willingness to avoid things, such as widebody aircraft and intercontinental services, which could risk its whole existence. This willingness to avoid is clearly demonstrated in its 737-only fleet and willingness to accept schedule bunching, as shown above.

What do you think about COPA? Add a comment!

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PLAY Receives Air Operators Certificate Ahead Of June Flight Launch




Icelandic low-cost carrier PLAY has received its Air Operators Certificate (AOC) today. The airline is preparing to commence flights on June 24th, so this update is a significant step for the company.

PLAY Render
PLAY will receive its first aircraft early next month. Photo: PLAY Airline

Another step closer

Simple Flying reported earlier today that the first service for the new airline will be to Stansted. The carrier is keen to serve popular markets around Europe from this summer before expanding to the United States East Coast in 2022. So, the securement of the AOC from the Icelandic Transport Authority will undoubtedly bring joy to the executives of the company as they can tick this significant task off the list.

Altogether, an AOC is the approval granted by the aviation authority of a country to an operator to allow it to deploy aircraft for commercial activity. Notably, a prospective airline has to have the right personnel, equipment, and structure in place to be given the green light.

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PLAY’s COO, Arnar Már Magnússon shares that there was great cooperation with Icelandic authorities to acquire the certificate. He adds that the firm also received support from major industry figures such as AerCap and Airbus, which has been valuable since these institutions know the market inside out.

PLAY Cockpit
PLAY’s personnel are rearing to go. Photo: PLAY Airline

The right time

The airline’s CEO, Birgir Jónsson, shares that this progress marks a turnaround for the travel sector in Iceland. Overall, the whole board is grateful for the efforts that the staff of the company and its stakeholders have put in since the airline’s founding in 2019. The work put in has led to the airline being well positioned in the new climate.

“After the pandemic, the opportunity actually just got a lot bigger. If you’re well funded like we are now with $50 million in the pocket, you can actually do it on your own terms. I mean, it’s a very good time to lease aircraft, and you can basically pick and choose the right kind of aircraft, in our case, the A321neos. Additionally, you have great access to a lot of highly qualified and trained staff crew,” Jónsson told Simple Flying this weekend.

“Also, a lot of the competition is weak. It’s damaged. I mean we can see here, our competition like Icelandair, and other airlines, are having huge operational and business problems. So to come into that market well funded with no burden of debt, you can basically set up a company, at a point in time, where everything is beneficial to you. That’s a huge reason why we think we will succeed.”

PLAY CEO Birgir Jónsson
Jónsson is clear about the airline’s approach. Photo: PLAY Airline

The next stage

Altogether, PLAY is excited to welcome its passengers on board its new A321neos, which are arriving from the beginning of next month. There will be three units of these narrowbodies with the airline this summer to transport passengers across the skies with what are billed to be highly competitive prices.

What are your thoughts about PLAY’s progress over the last few months? Are you looking forward to flying with the airline after services commence? Let us know what you think of the carrier and its plans in the comment section.

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American Airlines welcomes all customers on quarantine-free flights to Italy




American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner N829AN (msn 40651) LAX (Michael B. Ing). Image: 944766.

American Airlines has offered customers quarantine-free flights from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Milan (MXP) since April 2 and on flights from JFK to Rome (FCO) as of May 8. With the recent change in Italy’s travel restrictions, any customers, whether traveling for leisure or essential business, are eligible to fly on American’s flights from New York to Italy starting May 16.

Prior to travel, customers will need to provide proof of the required negative COVID-19 test and also upon arrival in Milan or Rome. After taking a second test at the airport producing a negative result, travelers will not need to quarantine in Italy.

American currently offers daily flights between JFK and MXP and three-times weekly service to FCO. American also operates four-times weekly service between Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and FCO and expects those flights to become quarantine-free and open to all travelers in the coming days.

Top Copyright Photo: American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner N829AN (msn 40651) LAX (Michael B. Ing). Image: 944766.

American aircraft slide show (Boeing):

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British Airways Facing Difficulties In Getting Crews To Fly To India




India is presently facing a devastating wave of coronavirus. This has seen case numbers spike to record-high levels. Amid concerns about the increased transmissibility of a new variant of the virus present in India, UK flag carrier British Airways is reportedly struggling to get crews onboard when it comes to its flights to the country.

British Airways, Willie Walsh, Check-in Chaos
BA is giving crew members the chance to opt out of flights to India. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Apprehension regarding flights to India

According to The Independent, fears regarding the present health crisis in India have been causing British Airways cabin crew to refuse to work on flights to and from the country. Employees are reportedly “scared of working on the flights” to India. To put its staff’s mind at ease, BA has removed overnight stays in India from its working itineraries.

This will allow staff to remain in the controlled environment of the airport boundaries between their outbound and return flights. Furthermore, in a letter to its crew, the airline has also told employees that, if they do not feel comfortable, they can opt out of such flights by signing a form. British Airways told The Independent that:

The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority, and we follow and comply with all international regulations.”

BA has removed overnight stops from its rotations to and from India. Photo: Getty Images

Added to the red list last month

The UK government recently added the country to its ‘red list.’ This came about due to India’s high infection rates, and fears about the presence of a mutant coronavirus strain in the country. Arrivals from such countries are obliged to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense upon arrival. Meanwhile, ‘amber list’ arrivals may quarantine in their homes.

Officials hoped that this classification would reduce the possibility of the mutated strain being transmitted. Furthermore, it could act as a deterrent against people traveling from India to the UK in general. However, the government has come under fire for its lack of urgency in adding the country to its most serious category.

While it announced India’s reclassification on April 19th, this didn’t come into effect until April 23rd. This caused a surge of India-UK bookings as passengers rushed to beat the deadline. As such, in the short term, it may not have served as a deterrent as hoped.

British Airways Boeing 787 London Heathrow
BA has continued flying to India for humanitarian purposes. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

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Why is BA still flying to India?

Fears about India’s latest surge in coronavirus could cause the question to arise as to whether such flights should or need to operate. However, British and Irish residents may still legally enter the UK from the country under red list conditions if they are prepared to comply with a 10-day quarantine in a hotel for £1,750 ($2,470).

For now, there seems to be sufficient demand from this demographic for such flights to go ahead. Indeed, Air India is also continuing to operate passenger flights to the UK. Furthermore, BA has also been flying to the country on humanitarian missions amid the current crisis. Earlier this month, it flew 27 tonnes of medical aid on a Boeing 777 to Delhi.

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FAA Investigating Near Miss Runway Incident At San Diego




The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating an incident at San Diego International Airport after an apparent near-miss between an aircraft coming into land and one that was preparing to take off. The incident happened on Thursday night a little after 22:30 when an inbound Skywest Alaska Airlines flight from Portland International Airport (PDX) was on final approach.

San Diego is the busiest single-runway airport in the world. Photo: Johnnyw3 via Wikipedia

As the aircraft was on final approach at an altitude of 300 feet, air traffic control instructed the crew of flight AS 3446 to abort the landing on runway 27 and perform a go-around due to a departing aircraft being on the airport’s only runway. According to ABC News reporter Sam Sweeny, a Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-200 operating as flight number DL2249 was preparing to take off for Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTR) when it was delayed due to mechanical issues.

The plane landed safely 12 minutes later

According to aviation tracking website, the incoming Skywest Embraer ERJ-175 immediately pulled up and climbed to 4,800 feet as it passed over Pacific Beach before landing in San Diego 12 minutes later. When contacted regarding what could have been a major disaster by NBC 7 News, San Diego, SkyWest Airlines published a statement from which read:

“Alaska Airlines Flight 3446, traveling from Portland to San Diego, landed without incident at 10:55 p.m. last night. Air traffic control issued a ‘go-around’ to give further separation between aircraft. That’s a standard procedure. Our pilots are highly trained and skilled at responding to these types of situations.”

A statement from the FAA who is investigating the incident read:

“Air traffic controllers at San Diego International Airport instructed the crew of SkyWest Flight 3446 to discontinue their approach to Runway 27 Thursday evening because another aircraft was on the runway preparing for departure,” an FAA representative emailed NBC 7. “The other aircraft, Delta Air Lines Flight 2249, departed safely, and the SkyWest aircraft landed later. The FAA is investigating.”

About the planes

While we do not know how many passengers and crew were aboard each aircraft, we know that Skywest Airlines Brazilian-built Embraer ERJ-175 was a three-year-old aircraft with the registration N193SY configured to carry 76 passengers. The Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-200 that was waiting on the runway is a 16-year-old aircraft with the registration N851NW. Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-200s are configured to carry 234 passengers in three classes of service.

The aircraft was on final approach after arriving from Portland. Image

At the time of the near-miss, the weather was a little overcast but with perfect visibility for the incoming Skywest Embraer.

About San Diego Airport

San Diego International Airport (SAN) was first called San Diego Municipal Airport – Lindbergh Field when it opened in 1928. Charles Lindbergh flight-tested the Spirit of St. Louis at the nearby Ryan Airlines factory where the plane was built.

Today SAN claims to be the busiest single-runway airport globally, with almost 500 daily flights pre-COVID-19. In August 2019, Forbes Magazine called SAN the best airport in the United States due to the amenities on offer, minimal delays, and its closeness to downtown.

Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-200s can carry 234 passengers. Photo: Kentaro Iemoto via Wikimedia

Being located three miles (4.8 km) northwest of downtown does not come without its drawbacks. The approach into SAN is known for its proximity to skyscrapers and steep descent over Bankers Hill.

We do not yet know how near the miss was and will wait for the FAA report on the incident.

What do you think about the near-miss, and why did ATC wait for so long to tell AS3446 to go around? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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