Copa to grow 2013 capacity by 14%

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Panama's Copa Airlines expects to grow capacity by 14% in 2013, with a majority of the additional capacity attributed to new destinations and frequencies it launched this year.

The Star Alliance carrier is expecting a full-year load factor of 76% in 2013, and for revenue per available seat mile (RASM) to grow slightly to 13.7 cents, says Copa's chief financial officer Victor Vial in an earnings call today.

Vial expects 2013's cost per available seat mile (CASM) excluding fuel to come in at 6.6 cents, and for the airline to post an operating margin of between 18% and 20%.

Copa now expects to grow full-year 2012 ASMs by 24%, up slightly from the 23% it forecasted earlier, says Vial. The airline's operating margin for 2012 will narrow to 19%, from the 18% to 20% range it had expected earlier. It is maintaining its guidance for its 2012 load factor at 75%, RASM at 13.6 cents and CASM excluding fuel at 6.7 cents.

About 70% of the capacity growth in 2013 will be the full-year effect of new destinations and frequencies launched by the carrier this year, says Vial. Copa now flies to 64 destinations and added 14 destinations in the last 18 months, says its chief executive Pedro Heilbron.

The airline will add frequencies to several markets in December, says Pedro today. These include a fifth daily flight to Cancun, a fourth daily flight to Sao Paulo, a third daily flight to Los Angeles, a second daily flight to Santa Cruz, and seasonal frequencies to other markets.

Copa's 2013 capacity growth will be concentrated more in the first half of the year, says Vial. Both the first and second quarter will see about 18% to 19% growth in ASMs, while the third and fourth quarter will see capacity growing by about 10% in each quarter.

Copa will end 2012 with a fleet of 83 aircraft, following the delivery of two Boeing 737-800s and the return of a leased 737-800 in the fourth quarter. It will take delivery of seven 737-800s in 2013 to end that year with 90 aircraft.