A Star Alliance Upstart Just Called Out Both United and Delta — and Could Save Us All

Copa wouldn’t seem like the most important airline to most US-based frequent flyers. But they’re a lot more important than you think, in several ways.

Copa used to be majority-owned by Continental Airlines, and Copa took on a variant of the Continental logo and joined the old Onepass frequent flyer program. Continental started selling their investment in 2005, and the airline is independent now, but they’re pretty well integrated with United.

Even now that they’re launching their own frequent flyer program there’s reciprocal upgrade benefits between the two airlines. And of course Copa is a member of the Star Alliance.

Their brand new frequent flyer program which is about to launch is making a statement — and they’re calling out United and Delta while they do it.

They’ve just e-mailed out this missive:

Russ Hinckley was lured down to Panama to run the program. It’s important to know who he is:

  • He was managing the US Airways Dividend Miles program when they merged with American (reporting to Fern Ferndandez who is now American’s VP of Marketing). That was a pretty generous Star Alliance program he was embedded in.
  • He ran Northwest Worldperks. When Northwest merged with Delta he got the US Bank FlexPerks program off the ground. (US Bank had been the co-brand partner of Northwest and they wanted to keep their cardmembers.)

He’s an old hand at loyalty with a history of rewarding members well. He says that revenue-based programs are more complicated and not what members want and Copa is making a move to distinguish themselves.

They could well turn out to be a great program to credit United flights to in order to earn full mileage, regardless of fare. They’ve committed that much already. We’ve seen some of their award charts. We just need to see the rest of the program to know.

You can still receive 1000 free miles just for giving them your e-mail address prior to program launch.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. “Could Save Us All”! There is a Gleff-style hyperbolic headline, if there ever was one, for what is hardly fresh news…

  2. This is interesting, and certainly bears watching, but personally, I won’t get too excited until I see the following:

    1) Partner earning/redemption charts
    2) Mileage expiration policies
    3) A US-issued credit card, or CM becoming a transfer partner of AmEx MR, SPG, or Citi TYP.

  3. Why do I have to click on a link to further read this article? Remember the new Coke? Please go back to the classic View From the Wing. Your daily readers will appreciate it.

  4. “Could Save Us All”. I looked in vain for the part about how they are going to force Iran to adhere to the “nuclear agreement”, not to mention defeating ISIS and AQ. Maybe I just didn’t read closely enough.

  5. Don’t get me wrong. I hate the revenue-based system (r-b.s.) with a passion, as a mostly Y-cabin, long-haul int’l traveler who will see my redeemable UA mile earning fall by up 60% under the new system. So, I will root for any FF program that refuses to jump on the r-b.s. bandwagon. However, the notion that an airline the size of COPA can possibly “save us” from r-b.s. is simply silly. On the other hand, AAdvantage bears watching carefully and rooting for because they are not only Big, but are also the proud Granddaddy of the legacy FF system, so that when there are reports like this…

    President, AAdvantage Loyalty Program Suzanne Rubin said: “As the largest airline in the world, with a global network that spans 54 countries, our frequent flyer program must also be the best in the business. A MILE FLOWN CONTINUES TO BE A MILES EARNED in AAdvantage…”

    …one can have some hope that the r-b.s. may not be ready to rule the world just yet

  6. Oops, make that “A MILE FLOWN CONTINUES TO BE A mile EARNED.” The typo was mine but the point is clear: At least in the short-term, AAdvantage plans to stick with the legacy FF system, which will thus have a credible “champion”. COPA can definitely play a minor supporting role.

  7. RSS is still broken. Gary said he would fix it but he lied. He won’t fix it because he can’t put his credit card links in an RSS reader like Feedly. Instead the fat cat must get fatter by earning $200-$600 a pop for each credit card approval through his site. He doesn’t care about you, only his wallet (which is exactly why he wrote the trash about the CSP being so great… it gives better commissions than other cards). Whatever Gary. Keep on lying. I’m done.

  8. Sounds like it will be the perfect program to credit super discounted economy Star Alliance fares (the kind that will usually receive zero or 125 miles in most other Star programs, like LH T and OS S fares).

  9. No, I did not say I would fix RSS, I am looking into some potential fixes though.

    And Jon, think for a second, if you thought RSS had anything to do with credit cards don’t you think I would be ensuring full text posts in the feed so that the credit card links would be in the feed?

    What you’re suggesting really does not make sense. Truncating the feed means cutting out credit card links…

  10. Sure do miss the old format in which we received your emailed blog. It was so easy to scan over-no additional clicking. If I had not clicked on this article, I would not have found out more valuable info. Just wonder what else I have missed because I don’t click on every article.

  11. Gary, I am excited about this program. Do you think that they will either have a credit card available to US citizens, or become a transfer partner for someone (this would make Citi points much more valuable)?

    With a transfer partner, I could see this becoming my Star alliance plan of choice.

  12. How much of this is just a reluctance to invest in IT rather than an actual company principal?

    And please fix the RSS feed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *