Pilots for Panamanian airline, Copa Airlines, have voted to strike on February 2 after talks between the union and the airline have stalled.

Demanding better working conditions and benefits

For months, Copa’s pilots, represented by the Panamanian Commercial Aviators Unions (UNPAC), have attempted to negotiate a better contract with Copa. As is typical with pilot and flight attendant negotiations, the demand is to improve working conditions. Copa’s pilots voted to strike in early February over three months after beginning negotiations.

Copa Boeing 737-800 PC Den

Photo: Denver International Airport

The strike will begin on February 2 at 07:30 and could involve almost 1,200 pilots. Copa’s international flights will be hit hard, as the strike will not be limited to domestic services. Copa’s pilots believe that throughout the pandemic, they have lost respect and care from the airline, leading to tough negotiations not going their way.

According to the union, the pilots’ demands are not unrealistic and should be easily met. Requests have been made to improve day-to-day working conditions and benefits provided through the role. Pilots are not pleased with current overnight accommodations on trips and onboard food. The union has also asked the airline to improve the health insurance package provided to pilots and their retirement plans.

Significance of PTY, Copa’s hub

A few days ago, Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport (PTY) released its passenger figures for 2022 and said it expects to break a record in 2023. In total, 15.7 million passengers flew through PTY.

According to airport management, more than 95% of the airport’s international routes were recovered last year. The 15.7 million passenger total was a 6.6 million increase from the previous year. Copa Airlines, Panama’s flag carrier, continued to hold the most significant portion of the market share at PTY.

A Copa Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9

Photo: Copa Airlines

Tocumen has become a massive hub for Copa and connects passengers to 70 destinations throughout the Americas. Seventy destinations and almost 1,100 weekly departures mean that Copa holds a 91% market share at PTY. Though PTY is a significant hub, it is interesting to note that it is not in the top three busiest Latin American airports.

Recent Latin American airline news

A few weeks ago, a group of passengers flying with KLM from Bogotá to Amsterdam was stranded in Panama for several days because of a technical issue. On January 14, flight KL749 was on its way to Amsterdam when it had to divert to PTY. The technical problem was never disclosed but required more work than initially anticipated, and the flight was canceled.

What the airline did for passengers on KL749 is unclear. Still, a spokesperson said that the airline would never compromise the safety of passengers and crew and that it was aware that canceling flights was not pleasant for passengers.

According to data from flightradar24, the Boeing 787-9 remained on the ground for six days before flying back to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Since then, the aircraft has resumed regular services on KLM’s vast international network.

Source: Business Traveler USA

Source: simpleflying.com

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