The combined network of the two airline groups gives Star Alliance a more prominent footprint in Central America, the Caribbean and the northern and western regions of South America, as well as additional direct connections between Latin America and cities in Europe. Star Alliance passengers will in future have access to a large range of new destinations and flights connecting through the Copa Airlines hubs in Panama City (Panama) and Bogota (Colombia) and the Avianca-TACA hubs in Bogota (Colombia), San Salvador (El Salvador), Lima (Peru) and San Jose (Costa Rica).
At the same time, the existing Avianca-TACA and Copa Airlines customer base will be able to access the global Star Alliance network and make use of the benefits that an alliance provides, such as collecting and redeeming miles on all member carriers.
The addition of the two carrier groups is the culmination of a strategic process to extend Star Alliance’s reach in Latin America. This began with the addition of Continental Airlines just over a year ago, improving connections between North America and Central and South America. Further network expansion and improved connectivity to, from and within South America was made possible by the joining of TAM Airlines in May.
“Copa Airlines’ membership in Star Alliance will enhance our global reach as we implement strong partnerships with the Alliance’s 27 carriers and link Latin America’s most efficient hub, our Hub of the Americas in Panama City, to Star Alliance´s vast global network,” said Pedro Heilbron, CEO, Copa Airlines. “In addition, our participation in the Alliance will enhance our already strong commercial alliance with United-Continental, in place since 1998. We will now continue to build this value within the Star Alliance family.”
“We want to thank Star Alliance for welcoming us as future members of this truly global connectivity effort, joining the leading airline network in terms of daily flights, destinations and countries served as well as number of member airlines. As Avianca-TACA we are working towards becoming a valuable partner for Star Alliance and its members; it is a determining factor for our competitive strategy that will enable us to leap forward in terms of the breath and scale of the benefits provided to our passengers,” said Fabio Villegas, CEO of Avianca-TACA. “We are excited to start the incorporation process that will surely yield reciprocal benefits to all our clients and become a part of the Star Alliance promise of an enjoyable travel experience anywhere in the world.”
Avianca-TACA and Copa Airlines will bring 46 new destinations to the Star Alliance newtwork. Once integration is complete, the customers of the 31 alliance members will have access to more than 22,500 daily flights serving 1,292 destinations in 188 countries.
Avianca-TACA serve more than 100 destinations around the world, operating a fleet of more than 150 modern short, medium and long range aircraft. The carrier group directly employs almost 12,000 people and has more than three million members in its loyalty program. Avianca and TACA, which each consolidate several smaller Latin American carriers, agreed to a strategic merger in October 2009, creating a combined network focussing on North, Central and South America, the Caribbean and cities in Europe. TACA’s initial request for Star Alliance membership dates back to 2008.
The two airlines of Copa Holdings - Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia - serve 52 destinations in 25 countries. The group recently strengthened its presence in Colombia, by rebranding Aero Republica to Copa Airlines Colombia. Copa Airlines’ Hub of the Americas at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama, is Latin America’s leading hub, with major traffic from the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Copa’s entrance into Star Alliance reinforces its 12-year-old alliance with United-Continental. Copa left Skyteam in October 2009.
In addition, Miami airport will also benefit from the latest Star Alliance expansion, with the number of Star Alliance member carriers present rising from seven to nine. “For Miami, this strengthens its role as the gateway between North America and the south of the continent,” Jaan Albrecht said.
The integration teams from Star Alliance, Avianca-TACA, Copa Airlines and the respective mentor carriers, Lufthansa and Continental, will now begin their work in order to achieve integration of both airline groups by mid 2012.