COPA has finalised a deal to acquire 12 new Boeing 737-700s through order and operating leases. The carrier will re-equip its fleet completely and expand services to Central and South America.

The privately owned Panamanian carrier has ordered eight 737s from Boeing and will lease a further four aircraft, two each from General Electric Capital Aviation Services and Tombo Aviation Services. The $513 million deal involves the replacement of COPA's entire fleet of 13 ageing 737-200Advs.

COPA is to take delivery of its first leased aircraft in April, the second in June and another two in October. Another four 737s will be delivered in 2000, with the remaining four following the year after. The aircraft will be configured for a two-class 124 seat layout, with 12 business and 112 economy seats.

The 52-year-old carrier operates services from its base in Panama City to 24 destinations in 18 countries. "We'll operate the new aircraft on longer-range routes and will add more non-stop flights to Latin America," says COPA. Planned new non-stop services to be launched in 1999 from Panama City include flights to Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; and Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The airline carried more than 900,000 passengers in 1998.

Source: Flight International