Copa expects mid 2010 alliance decision

Washington DC
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Panama's Copa Airlines plans to decide in mid 2010 whether it will join the Star Alliance or remain independent.

Copa exited the SkyTeam alliance last October at the same time its main bilateral partner, Continental Airlines, left SkyTeam for Star. But instead of immediately joining Star Copa decided to wait and decide later on whether to join Star or be non-aligned.

"It's a 2010 decision. It is going to happen this year, probably towards the middle of the year," Copa CEO Pedro Heilbron told analysts today. "The decision we have to make is between Star and remaining independent. With our strong relationship with Continental, we are not going to go to another alliance,"

Heilbron first told ATI in November 2008 that staying in SkyTeam or joining oneworld were not options for Copa given its strong commercial ties with Continental, which announced its decision to leave SkyTeam for Star earlier in 2008. But he said at the time and again today that Copa could continue to enjoy all the benefits of its tie-up with Continental if it elected to be independent.

"We will do what generates the most revenues for Copa Holdings," Heilbron explains. "We are in a comfortable position and we are confident we will make a good decision for Copa Holdings."

Copa Airlines was independent until 2005 when it became a SkyTeam associate member. Colombian sister carrier Aero Republica, which is also owned by Copa Holdings, has always been independent although like Copa it is part of Continental's OnePass frequent flier programme. Continental for several years had a minority stake in Copa but today there is no cross-ownership.