Panama's Copa Airlines has taken delivery of its first Boeing 737 with the new Sky Interior and anticipates taking its first 737 powered by the upgraded CFM56-7BE engine around mid-year.

Boeing in a statement says Copa today became the first Latin American carrier to take delivery of a 737 with the Sky Interior. The aircraft delivered today is Copa's 18th 737-800 and the first of 10 737-800s the airline group is expected to take this year.

All 10 737-800s, which include two more deliveries in the current half and seven in the second half of 2011, will feature the Sky Interior. Copa senior vice-president of operations Dan Gunn tells ATI and Flightglobal that Copa also plans to start receiving 737-800s powered by the CFM56-7BE "after May".

The new CFM56-7BE Evolution engine will be packaged with airframe performance improvements, driving a 2% reduction in fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Boeing says this package "will be phased into production between mid-2011 and early 2012".

The Sky Interior, which includes new cove lighting and curving architecture as well as larger stowage bins, was the last enhancement introduced by Boeing on its 737NG line. The first 737 with the Sky Interior was delivered in October 2010 to FlyDubai.

As Copa uses its 737s to operate several longish medium-haul routes from its Panama City hub, it will be able to utilise the range and payload improvements that come with the 2% gain in fuel efficiency. The carrier now faces payload limitations on some of its longer flights such as Panama City-Montevideo.

"We are looking forward to the improved fuel economics which should give the aircraft an advantage on the long hauls relative to the current aircraft," Gunn says.

In addition to its 18 737-800s Copa Holdings also operates 20 737-700s and 26 Embraer E-190s. This includes the two 737-700s and 14 E-190s at its Copa Colombia unit.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news