Panama's Copa shows strong interest in re-engined 737

Washington DC
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Panama's Copa Holdings is keen on the re-engined Boeing 737 narrowbody, and has indicated that the aircraft could form a new order it would need to place in the future.

Copa expects to meet the airframer in the "coming weeks" and hopes to gather enough information about the re-engined 737 to make a decision, said the airline's CEO Pedro Heilbron, adding that the carrier is definitely an "interested party".

Copa Holdings, the parent company of Copa Airlines and Copa Colombia, foresees a need for new aircraft orders for 2018 and beyond, said Heilbron.

It currently has 46 737-800s on order, according to Flightglobal's ACAS database. It will take 13 aircraft deliveries next year, but also plans to return three leased 737s, said Heilbron.

"There is always a possibility of leasing additional aircraft for 2013 and beyond to supplement what we have on order," he added.

Heilbron indicates that Copa could have a role in influencing the design of the re-engined 737, saying that the signals it has received from Boeing point to that.

"We operate the 737NG to its maximum performance limit, and we will have a particular interest [in the re-engined aircraft]," he added.

Copa today reported a 40.6% surge in net profit in its second quarter, and remains bullish on growth in the rest of the year. It projects an operating margin of 19% to 21% for 2011, up from the previous guidance of 18% to 20%.

Expansion plans at Panama City's Tocumen International airport, due to be completed in the fourth quarter, would help facilitate Copa's growth, said Heilbron.