TAMPA — Early demand appears strong for the highly anticipated launch of Copa Airlines’ nonstop flights between Tampa International Airport and Panama City, Panama, in mid-December.
The airline will fly here four days a week.
Copa told Tampa airport officials it assigned larger-than-planned aircraft to two December round-trips and four January round-trips, boosting them from 124-seat Boeing 737-700s to 160-seat Boeing 737-800s.
One of the round-trips that will use the larger aircraft is the inaugural inbound flight from Panama on Dec. 16 and the inaugural outbound flight from Tampa on Dec. 17. Round-trip tickets at $837.60 were available, although cheaper fares were sold out.
“The flights are exceeding expectations,” said Joe Lopano, Tampa International chief executive officer. The airline declined comment on passenger demand.
The inbound flights are scheduled to leave Tocumen International Airport at 6:34 p.m. and arrive in Tampa at 9:53 p.m. on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Outbound flights will depart Tampa at 7:02 a.m. and arrive in Panama at 10:12 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Tampa Bay area economic development, business and tourism interests and families with ties in Tampa and Latin America have long coveted the Copa flights because of the dozens of connections available at Panama’s Tocumen International to points throughout Central and South America.
“I’d hope Copa eventually will add a second flight next year,” Lopano said. “That is their pattern, they start slowly and build from that.”