Christophe Didier, Sales Vice President of Copa Airlines
Visit Latin America: COPA Airlines is 75 years old this year, what has been the key to its success and longevity?
We have a very clear vision and objectives to be the leading airline and preferred connection to link North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. This vision is complemented by our corporate objectives, which is the action plan we work on every year and which always ties in with our vision. What we see today is the result of many years of focus and constant work.
VLA: Air transport plays an important role in the reactivation of tourism. Does COPA have specific actions to participate in the reactivation of the sector in Latin America? Which ones?
We continue to strengthen our route network, adding frequencies and unique destinations while operating in small markets with little service, which can only be served efficiently through a hub. This combination makes it possible to bring international tourists and travellers to cities that lack international connectivity would make it very difficult to develop their tourism industry and economic activity. Moreover, on the commercial side, we continue to work hard throughout the Americas with our network of wholesalers, offering exclusive discounted rates to create competitive packages to different destinations in our network.
VLA: Can you tell us about your “Panama Stopover” programme that is carried out with PROMTUR and other actions that make Panama the HUB OF THE AMERICAS?
For many years we have worked with the tourism authorities and now also with PROMTUR to promote Panama as a tourist destination.
Currently, we maintain an important investment with the STOPOVER programme in Panama, which offers an incentive for the thousands of passengers who transit annually through the Hub of the Americas® in Panama, to include in their itinerary an extended stay in the country at the time of purchasing their ticket, at no additional cost in the airfare. The stopover can be included in any itinerary in any of the destinations served by Copa. This is a strategic alliance with PROMTUR and is a key element for the reactivation of the sector and the economic recovery of the country.
VLA: You have announced a renovation and increase of the company’s fleet and also a new business and economy class, can you give us more details about this?
The airline has 81 active aircraft, plus 3 aircraft still in temporary storage. By the end of 2022, we expect to receive 8 new Boeing 737 MAX9 aircraft, and by 2023 we expect to reach a fleet of 100 aircraft, all Boeing 737s. In addition, our Dreams Business Class has 16 comfortable reclining lie-flat seats, large 16-inch remote-controlled touchscreens and a comprehensive entertainment programme, AC and USB power sockets, among other elements that ensure the comfort of our passengers. We also have an upgraded Economy Class product in the Economy Extra section, located at the front of the cabin, comprising 24 seats with increased legroom, individual 10-inch touchscreens with USB input and AC power sockets – for added passenger convenience.
VLA: Environment and social responsibility are important issues in tourism and air transport, how does COPA Airlines integrate them in its activity?
We have a sustainability strategy, aligned with our values, conducting business in an ethical, responsible and efficient manner throughout our value chain. On the environmental side, we are committed to complying with the IATA resolution to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050. In line with this, we have created a series of sustainable initiatives in our operations that reduce our impact on the environment, such as efficient fuel use, efficient waste management, reducing the use of plastics in in-flight service, among others.
In social responsibility, we believe it starts at home, with our own staff. We have various initiatives for the personal and professional development of our staff, with training programmes that go far beyond the minimum they need to do their job. In addition, we have our own training schools for high productivity technical jobs such as ALAS for pilots and ATA for aviation mechanics. When they finish, they are guaranteed a job at Copa. In addition, many go on to study with scholarships that Copa awards to candidates who meet the requirements.
On the other hand, we are signatories to IATA’s 25 by 2025 pact, which seeks to promote diversity and inclusion of women in non-traditional roles. We are proud to share that Copa has almost 100 female pilots (10%) and this is one of the highest rates of female pilots in the industry worldwide. Additionally, more than 40% of management positions are held by women, and growing.
VLA: What are COPA’s development projects for the coming years, and could flights to Europe or other continents be envisaged?
Our focus is on continuing to expand the impact and strategic relevance of the Hub of the Americas, developing our route network and flight frequencies in order to maintain our leadership as the most efficient connection point in the region.
VLA: For you, as a Franco-Brazilian, what is the trip you remember most and would recommend with your eyes closed?
There are so many trips to tell… Those who know me well know that I love Brazil, its culture, its music, its gastronomy, the way people relate to each other, its spaces and landscapes… Rio is a beautiful city and cycling up the Corcovado is the best! But I also love hiking in the national parks of the United States, especially Bryce Canyon in Utah, it’s a real beauty! Also, I can say that it is a very enriching experience to take a cruise in the Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia, or another in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador….
VLA: What message would you like to send to tourism professionals?
Tourism professionals play a very important role in our society. Your clients dream of their next trip and their aspirations are even higher after having gone through a pandemic of more than 2 years (which still seems not to be over) without being able to move freely in the world! As professionals and experts, you have the power to influence travellers and an immense range of options at your disposal. I urge you to always actively listen to the customer, to keep up with product training, and to offer the best possible service. These are what I consider to be the key elements to gain the trust and loyalty of your customers!
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