Copa Airlines may face a decline in its post-pandemic business recovery as its pilot workforce voted to go on a three-month strike after previous months’ negotiations end up in a stalemate. This threat of a strike, if carried out may lead to unprecedented losses in all airline operations. Hence, this issue demands a swift resolution.
Copa Airlines is the national airline of Panama and the leading airline among Latin American countries. The airline boasts cheap fares, a vast customer base, and a hub connecting travellers to the Americas.
Copa Airlines is a well-established airline, servicing about 333 domestic and international routes worldwide, operating all its routes with one of the most modern fleets in Latin America at low fares.
Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, like other companies, COPA Airlines experienced substantial losses that led them to slash their pilots’ and other staff’s salaries. The airline’s post-pandemic recovery has been healthy, and the airline is back to full capacity. However, regardless of the healthy recovery in sales, Copa Airlines has maintained the slash in its pilots’ and staff’s salaries, which did not sit well with the staff.
Through the Panamanian Commercial Aviators Union (UNPAC), the pilots of Copa Airlines started negotiation talks with the management of Copa Airlines in October 2022 over their low salaries and other benefits.
The pilots argue that the airline has recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic effects that caused their salary slash in the first place. Hence, they request an increase in their salaries, equivalent to the healthy growth in sales recorded by the airline.
Terms of Negotiation
Asides from the demand to increase their salaries, Copa Airlines pilots have used this opportunity to request an upgrade to other benefits that they are entitled to, including:
- Better health insurance packages.
- Improved retirement plans.
- Better day-to-day working conditions.
- Better overnight accommodations.
- Improved onboard foods.
Copa Airlines’ reluctance to meet their demands so far has forced them to announce that they will embark on a strike on Feb. 2, 2023. This strike will last three months unless Copa Airlines meets the pilots’ demands.
The Strike’s Implications
Copa Airlines is the leading airline in Latin America, providing air travel services to many travellers domestically and internationally. Tocumen International Airport (PTY) is a Copa Airlines travel hub, and Copa Airlines services a significant portion of the airport’s market. Here are some of the implications of the planned strike:
- Copa Airlines will lose substantial domestic and international ticket sales as travellers seek another alternative.
- Tocumen International Airport will record losses, too, as Copa Airlines flies over 90% of its passengers.
- There could be a reversal of Copa Airlines’ business recovery that the airline achieved after the COVID-19 year.
- The strike could give the airline a bad reputation, which can be a huge blow.
- Copa Airlines could lose a significant portion of its customer base.
Following Copa Airlines Pilots’ vote to strike, about 1200 pilots are ready to embark on the three-month strike, which shows their conviction to have their terms met by the airline management. The airline’s management should realise the situation’s urgency and the need to reevaluate their pilots’ negotiations, lest they incur substantial losses.
What do you think of this push-and-pull negotiation between Copa Airlines and its pilots? Let us know in the comments.