TACA and Copa Airlines are strengthening their duopoly as they vie with each other for ­dominance in Central America.

Both airlines are boosting capacity this year - 20% at Copa and slightly less than 20% at TACA - but each is pursuing a different growth strategy. Copa is adding frequencies on existing routes, while TACA is still expanding its network. Their different approaches are partly because Copa only has one hub, while TACA is a group of carriers with hubs in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Peru, and, to a lesser extent, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Copa is expanding its Panama City hub, where it has grown from two daily banks of flights to four. The SkyTeam carrier says it will add only two new destinations this year. The rest of its growth will be in more flights on existing routes. One of these will be San Salvador, where Copa has won a drawn-out battle with TACA. A second daily flight was approved in 2004, but held up when TACA objected. After lengthy litigation, El Salvador's supreme court has ruled in Copa's favour.

TACA is adding new routes to the Caribbean and Miami, and ­between Costa Rica and Panama. It also plans to add services in smaller markets using its new fleet of Embraer E-190s. TACA will take the first of 11 E-190s later this year. Copa already operates nine E-190s and is converting the entire fleet of its Colombian subsidiary, AeroRepublica, to E-190s.

Source: Airline Business