Copa Airlines management stated today that it is “very interested in any developments” regarding Boeing’s recently announced program to re-engine the Boeing 737.
Copa Holdings CEO Pedro Heilbron said that while Copa does not “know enough about the new Boeing aircraft, we (Copa) will be meeting with Boeing in the coming weeks, and we hope to gather enough information as to be in a position to make a decision. I don’t know if it’s going to happen overnight, but again; we still need to learn a lot more about this aircraft. And yeah… We’re an interested party.”
Copa Airlines and its sister Copa Airlines Colombia currently operate 40 Boeing 737 next generation aircraft ;(20 of the smaller 737-700, and 20 737-800s). The Panama based carrier also has 82 firm orders in place for an additional 82 737 next-generation aircraft (39 direct from Boeing; 42 from lessors).
Boeing announced their new re-engined 737 last month with a commitment from American Airlines for 100 of the type. Additionally, US based carriers Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines have both expressed interest in the re-engined 737.
Heilbron further stated when asked if Copa would be able to affect any design changes or updates in the aircraft, that: “We definitely think so, not only from the standpoint of being a significant customer (of the 737), but also given how we operate the aircraft. We basically operate the 737NG to kind of it’s maximum performance limits. So, we have particular needs that are of interest to us and to Boeing. So yes, the signals we have received indicate that we could be having a significant role.”
Heilbron’s remarks mesh well with statements made yesterday by Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly during that carriers quarterly earnings call.
“If Boeing can meet our needs, then I think there is a scenario where we feel like we’re done and we can make a commitment and be eligible to launch this re-engined product with Boeing”, said Kelly, indicating that he expected Southwest airlines to have a significant effect on the re-engined 737′s design.
In terms of a timeline on ordering the aircraft, Copa Airlines “We need something starting in 2018 and beyond. I mean, we have lots of options in 2018, we have nothing on order after 2018, so as of 2019… we will need to order new aircraft.”
Boeing is expected to formally launch the re-engined 737 in the fourth quarter of calendar year 2011, with targeted entry into service within the 2016-2018 time-frame.