Air service between Colombia and Panama has been restored, but bigger differences must be resolved before an interim deal expires on 25 January. Colombia cancelled its bilateral with Panama in August after the two countries reached an impasse in a drawn-out dispute.

The underlying problem is that northbound passengers from much of Colombia find it easier to connect via Panama rather than backtrack through Colombia's capital Bogot . Panama's Copa has profited by offering sixth-freedom flights over its Panama hub, giving it an 80% share of all traffic between Colombia and Panama.

Panama is pushing for an open-skies agreement with Colombia, but the latter prefers the status quo or slow expansion on a reciprocal basis. The Colombian government is partly motivated by a desire to insulate Summa - which is being formed by the integration of Aces and Avianca, Colombia's main carriers - from foreign competition. Pedro Heilbron, Copa's president, calls this attitude "paternalistic".

Colombia's civil aviation authority AeroCivil is anxious to nurture home grown competitors to Summa and has tried to gain access for them into Panama, and from more points in Colombia. But Panama has refused to budge without more access for Copa. Under the interim deal, Colombian carriers West Caribbean Airlines and Aires gain provisional rights into Panama.

Source: Airline Business