Copa Airlines could face massive disruption due to UNPAC-organized pilots’ strikes over poor working conditions.
Pilots working for Copa Airlines, Panama’s national airline, voted to go on strike on February 2 after months of unresolved negotiations to improve working conditions.
The union representing Copa pilots, the Union of Commercial Aviators of Panama (UNPAC), has been in talks with the airline since October 2022.
UNPAC Executive Director Luis Alcala said the two sides were unable to reach a “fair and sustainable agreement” and confirmed that airline pilots will join the strike starting at 7 am.
February 2nd at 3:30 pm.
About 1,200 pilots would be affected in the event of a strike. However, the expected disruptions are not limited to domestic flights within Panama, and many international flights, especially in Central America and the Caribbean, will be affected.
Copa’s hub at Tocumen International Airport (PTY) is a major regional transit airport serving flights between North and South America. Many US airlines have direct flights to his PTY, including many international airlines such as Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Air Canada, and Turkish Airlines.
UNPAC made several demands regarding working conditions for its members during its meetings with Copa. Pilots claim they have lost significant purchasing power since the pandemic, largely due to airlines’ shortened flight schedules, wage cuts, and inflation.
The union is also demanding that Copa pay more for pilots’ health insurance and improve the pension system. Other requests include improved accommodation for female pilots during stopovers, improved in-flight catering, and improved working conditions and rights for pregnant female pilots.
“The list of demands we are making is neither outrageous nor fantastical, it is very real,” Alcala said.
Copa Airlines has not responded to the threat of a strike, but UNPAC said it could be avoided if the airline responded proactively.