Here's a good sign for Tampa International Airport and its newest foreign airline, Copa Airlines: Copa's planes were 89 percent full last month when the Panamanian carrier started its new nonstop service from Panama City to Tampa.
The first Copa plane landed at Tampa International on Dec. 16, giving the bay area its first nonstop flight to Panama City and thus the rest of Central and South America.
According to the airport, 2,108 passengers flew into Tampa on Copa's planes, filling 2,376 of the available seats. The airport only had numbers for December available.
Strong demand is important because Copa has signed only a one-year deal to fly out of Tampa International Airport. The airport and its economic development and tourism partners have pledged to help fill Copa's seats to persuade the airline to stay in the Tampa Bay market.
Even before the new route launched, demand seemed strong for Copa's flights to and from Latin America. The airline has originally assigned its 737-700s to the Tampa route, which can seat about 124 passengers. But days before the flights started, the airline decided that demand was strong enough to assign bigger planes — 737-800s that can carry about 160 people — to certain dates.