The New Orleans region has been one of the largest U.S. markets without nonstop service to Latin America with over 400 passengers daily traveling to the region. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is the largest commercial airport within 300 miles and captures over 80% of Louisiana’s enplanements.
“GNO, Inc. is proud to have been an integral part of the outstanding team that is bringing Copa Airlines to New Orleans, reopening the Gateway to the Americas,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “This fulfills one of our top priorities – to reconnect Greater New Orleans to its historical ties to Central and South America – and thus catalyze a broad range of growth opportunities for the businesses, ports, universities and hospitals of our region. We look forward to working with Copa Airlines, one of the best air carriers in the world, in order to make this flight a great success."
“Copa Airlines is pleased to launch the new nonstop service between Panama and New Orleans, an exciting tourist and cultural destination with strong commercial ties to Panama and a growing Hispanic and Latin American population,” said Pedro Heilbron, CEO, Copa Airlines. “Copa’s new flight will not only greatly enhance business and leisure travel options between Louisiana and Panama, but also will increase connectivity to more than 55 destinations throughout Latin America.”
From the Hub of the Americas, Copa Airlines offers flights to more international destinations than any other airline from any other hub in Latin America. The New Orleans – Panama flight is timed for convenient connections to Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras; San José, Costa Rica; nine destinations in Colombia, including Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Cartagena; nine destinations in Brazil, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia; Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; and Guayaquil and Quito, Ecuador, among others destinations in Latin America. In-transit passengers making connections do not have to go through immigration and customs in Panama and baggage is checked to the final destination.
“With this new international flight, we open the gateway to the Americas and unleash new economic opportunity for the region’s businesses and tourism industry,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Copa Airlines to our great City.”
“During development of ProsperityNOLA, business leaders from every industry told us time and again that more international flights were an imperative to attracting international investment,” said Melissa Ehlinger, Interim President & CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. “We commend the Aviation Board, Mayor Landrieu, our tourism partners and GNO Inc. for their tireless efforts to make doing business in New Orleans easier and our economy more successful.”
“We have been extremely impressed with the level of support we have received from everyone involved with our new Copa flight,” said Fernando Fondevila, Regional Commercial Manager for Copa Airlines for North America. “New Orleans really understands the importance of international air service in today’s global economy and the need for connectivity to Latin America.” “International air service development has been a key focus of our entire team, and we look forward to welcoming Copa Airlines to our community,” stated New Orleans Aviation Board Chairwoman, Cheryl Teamer.
“This announcement is a momentous occasion for our City,” said New Orleans Councilman Jared Brossett, Chair of the Transportation and Aviation Committee. “This direct Panama flight with its connectivity to many Latin American cities is another sign that New Orleans is a thriving international destination.”
“We have been aggressively pursuing Copa Airlines for almost five years,” Director of Aviation Iftikhar Ahmad said. “Their announcement of service is a huge accomplishment for our entire region and will once again link New Orleans to all of Latin America.”
Flight CM 499 will depart New Orleans on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 6:55 a.m., arriving at Copa’s Hub of the Americas at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City at 10:19 a.m. The return flight, CM 498, will depart Panama Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 6:33 p.m., arriving in New Orleans at 10:02 p.m. All times are local; flight time is approximately three and a half hours.
Copa will operate a Boeing 737-700 Next-Generation aircraft on the flight, with seating for 12 passengers in Business Class and 112 in the main cabin. On-board service includes complimentary meals and beverages, including wines and spirits; a 12-channel audio-visual entertainment system in English, Spanish and Portuguese, with new movies monthly and complimentary headsets. Flight attendants are bilingual.
“In addition to its wealth of cultural attractions, history, world-renowned cuisine and its Mardi Gras celebration, the New Orleans area is home to a number of academic institutions with sizable Latin American student populations,” said Heilbron. “We expect Latin Americans to wholeheartedly embrace all that New Orleans has to offer and believe that our new flight will make a substantial contribution to tourism and economic development in general between Louisiana, Panama and the rest of the Latin American region.”
Established in 1947, Copa Airlines transported more than 11.6 million passengers in 2014.
(from GNO Inc. press release)
(Photo: Michael Hecht)