Panama's Copa Airlines says its new Colombian low-cost affiliate Wingo is performing better than expected, but doesn't foresee it will produce a profit until 2018.

"We are already losing less than what we lost before," Copa chief executive Pedro Heilbron told FlightGlobal on the sidelines of the IATA annual general meeting in Cancun.

Wingo launched service in December 2016, taking over most of Copa Colombia's service in a bid to turn around years of losses. Wingo operates a dedicated fleet of Boeing 737-700s and does not interline or codeshare with sister carrier Copa.

"It's doing better than we were with Copa Colombia," says Heilbron. "But like any start-up, the brand needs to be better known."

Wingo probably will not make a profit in 2017, as it requires a full year of operations for the airline to gauge seasonal adjustments and capacity, he adds.

The affiliate is Copa's first foray into low-cost carrier territory, and comes at a time when new discounters are setting up shop in Latin America. Even full-service airlines like LATAM Airlines Group are unbundling their fares on domestic affiliates to compete better with low-cost carriers.

Heilbron says Copa has no plans right now to expand the Wingo concept to other parts of its business. However, he believes "it will be very easy" for Copa if it chooses to pursue the low-cost model further, citing the airline's cost structure.

Source: Cirium Dashboard