The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) last week fined Compañía Panameña de Aviación, S.A. (NYSE: CPA) known commercially as Copa Airlines $450,000 for unlawfully transporting passengers between the United States and Venezuela via a stopover point. Copa was ordered to cease and desist from future similar violations.
Copa’s economic licensing authority to operate flights to and from the United States is conditioned on the carrier not transporting passengers or cargo to or from any airport in Venezuela. Under DOT Order 2019-5-5, which became effective on May 15, 2019, U.S. and foreign air carriers are prohibited from transporting passengers between the United States and Venezuela. The Department issued Order 2019-5-5 because of conditions threatening the safety and security of passengers, aircraft, and crew traveling to or from Venezuela.
An investigation by DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection found that for nearly a month following the issuance of DOT’s 2019 order, Copa sold more than 5,000 tickets for air travel between the United States and Venezuela and transported more than 15,000 passengers on these itineraries. By transporting passengers between the United States and Venezuela, Copa violated the conditions of its authority to operate and engaged in passenger operations to and from the United States without proper DOT authority.