In 1947, a group of businessmen takes the initiative, with the technical and economic support of Pan American Airways, to found the COMPAÑÍA PANAMEÑA DE AVIACIÓN, S.A. (COPA)
The company begins operations with 24 employees stationed in the capital and two provinces in the western region of the country. The airline makes domestic flights to three cities within the Republic of Panama utilizing three Douglas C-47 aircraft. A short time later, Guatemala is added as a new destination, and the airline becomes an international carrier.
By 1977 Copa has extended its route network both within and outside the country’s borders, covering the Central American region and two cities in Colombia. In 1979, bowing to business and financial conditions, Copa is obligated to stop flying its domestic routes; this phase is completed in 1980, and Copa becomes an exclusively international airline.
In the 80s, Copa buys its first B737-100 aircraft, adding flights to Cartagena, Port au Prince, Santo Domingo, Kingston, San Juan and Miami. Also, during this decade, Copa purchases a B737-200 “combo” aircraft and begins operation of cargo flights to select destinations in the Caribbean and Central America. This aircraft has the advantage of being able to be utilized for cargo, passengers or a combination of the two.
During the decade of the 90s, Copa expands its routes, adding Mexico, Santiago, Cali, Bogotá, Montego Bay, Quito, Guayaquil, Lima, Buenos Aires and Havana. The cargo division establishes daily cargo flights to Miami and weekly cargo operations to Bogotá, Medellin and Cali, thus connecting the major cities of Central America, the Caribbean and Colombia.
In 1997 Copa Cargo in Panama moves to the Panama Air Cargo Terminal, one of the most modern cargo facilities in the region, and consolidates its airfreight service.
In 1998 Continental Airlines’ acquisition of 49 percent of Copa’s shares is announced, representing one of the most significant commercial alliances in Latin American aviation. By May of the following year, Copa begins to operate Boeing 737-700 Next Generation aircraft.
From 2000 to 2005, Copa Airlines continues its annual growth, adding frequencies to existing destinations and initiating operations to new destinations such as Cancun, Orlando, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles and San Andres.
Currently, Copa Airlines has 22 737-700 and 737-800 passenger aircraft with an average capacity of 3,000 kilos of cargo per plane. Daily they transport some 75,000 kilos of cargo, mail and courier items.
Copa supports this passenger flight network with 737-200, 727-100 and 727-200 cargo aircraft, with scheduled flights to San José, Managua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Santo Domingo, Kingston, Bogotá, Cali, Medellin, and Guayaquil, covering charter cargo flight needs within the region.