Copa shifts Colombia capacity to international flights

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Copa Airlines is shifting away from the domestic market in Colombia in favour of routes to its hub at Panama City, Panama.

"We are focusing on flying from Colombia to our fortress hub here in Panama," said Peter Heilbron, chief executive of the Star Alliance member airline, during an earnings call on 7 February.

Capacity in Colombia shrank by 24.5% to 744.7 million available seat miles during 2012 versus a year earlier, and an additional 5.3% in January, according to Copa.

The cut backs are in response to increasing competition in the Colombian domestic market. "In a way, we saw that coming and went in a different and more profitable direction," said Heilbron.

Competition in Colombia includes AviancaTaca, LATAM-subsidiary LAN Colombia and VivaAerobus.

Copa's cut backs in Colombia do not necessarily benefit the other carriers. Estuardo Ortiz, chief operating officer of AviancaTaca, says that the Panamanian carrier is still a significant competitor as it is simply shifting the capacity to international flights from Colombia, at the Routes Americas 2013 forum in Cartagena on 10 February.

"It's a trade off," he says.