Five Minutes with Marco Ocando, Senior Marketing Director at Copa Airlines

by Martin Ramirez on October 9, 2023 in Entertainment,

In 2023, Copa Airlines began servicing Central Texas, offering flights out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Managing the Marketing, Public Relations, and Loyalty Program for the fastest-growing airline in Latin America takes a certain individual with the right mindset to plan for the future and prioritize passengers while balancing corporate responsibility and championing diversity.

And to do this and be recognized year after year is nothing short of amazing. That’s exactly what Copa Airlines and Senior Marketing, Public Relations, and Loyalty Program Director, Marco Antonio Ocando, have been able to achieve. Just recently, Ocando agreed to sit down with Texas Lifestyle Magazine to share his tips for success, which include letting go of old mantras and creating new ones, Latino elements that we can all embrace, and how to find meaning and act accordingly with your goals. 

Marco Ocando leads with exceptional expertise in the fields of marketing, public relations, and loyalty programs. Photo courtesy of Copa Airlines.

Since 2009, Ocando has been overseeing the airline’s brand identity, communications, and loyalty program, including the company’s advertising, sponsorships, public relations, and ConnectMiles loyalty program. With more than 21 years’ experience in various areas of marketing, eBusiness, and communications, his efforts have led to many awards for marketing campaigns and professional excellence. In 2007 Ocando was selected among the “100 Most Successful Managers in Venezuela” by GERENTE Magazine and has been named among Central America “Top 100 marketers” by Strategy and Business Magazine for three years in a row dating back to 2014.

Ocando is married and fluent in Spanish and English. His previous roles include the Marketing Director at Pernod Ricard Venezuela and Brand Manager at P&G Latin American Headquarters in Venezuela. A native of Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela, Ocando attended the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he graduated with honors with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. 

The benefits of passenger onboard service include meals, wine, and beer. Photo courtesy of Copa Airlines.

With over 21 years of marketing, eCommerce, and communications experience and numerous awards for marketing campaigns, what has been your marketing strategy for continuously moving forward and innovating? 

My approach for driving remarkable marketing performance is built upon three fundamental pillars:

  • Strong analytical and strategic support: utilizing data driven insights and conclusions to ensure a robust direction to the execution.
  • Ability and keenness to learn and unlearn: recognizing that tactics, platforms, and consumer behaviors can evolve over time and novelty, ensuring that I’m open to letting go of old mantras and embrace create new one
  • Legendary vs ordinary: aim to leave a mark, do memorable stuff that is salient and achieve outstanding and historic results.
Copa Airlines’ young and modern fleet are 40% more silent while reducing fuel consumption up to 14% and air contamination up to 50%. Photo courtesy of Copa Airlines.

Copa Airlines has been recognized as “The Best Airline in Central America and the Caribbean” by Skytrax for the eighth consecutive year to include, most recently, 2023. What has been Copa Airlines’ main focus to achieve this? 

At Copa Airlines, we prioritize our passengers and are dedicated to providing efficient connections through our Hub of the Americas® in Panama City, Panama. This recognition reinforces our commitment to offering world-class service and punctuality, further solidifying our position as leaders in the region. We uphold the highest standards of excellence and are committed to expanding our route network to connect more people to a total of 81 destinations in 32 countries throughout the Americas.

Copa Airlines had an on-time performance for the quarter of 91.6% and a flight completion factor of 99.8%, once again positioning itself among the very best in the industry and leading the chart in Latin America as most punctual airline for eight months during 2023 according to OAG.

Copa Airlines’s bilingual and trilingual flight attendants enable world-class service for a total of 81 destinations in 32 countries throughout the Americas. Photo courtesy of Copa Airlines.

Marketing is in everything we do. From how companies attract, retain, and develop a solid customer base on a macro level to how we as individuals brand ourselves on a micro level. What advice do you have for anyone as they look for their next career move or redefine themselves within their current role?

FIND MEANING: Devote time and effort to figure out where you want to go, what you want to be or where you want your business or area of responsibility to achieve at a certain point in time. To advance, you must have a north; understand what moves you.

ACT ACCORDINGLY: once you define the above, start modeling behavior that will get you there. Everything from your intermediate goals, the tactics you employ, the way you portray and project yourself should be in tune with that vision.

Copa’s fleet of fuel-efficient aircrafts and eco-friendly practices are driving innovation and corporate responsibility throughout Latin America. Photo courtesy of Copa Airlines.

Corporate social responsibility is more and more important than ever before. From environmental concerns to equitable labor, companies must be proactive in their messaging and disciplined in their execution. How is Copa Airlines defining corporate social responsibility and what can other companies learn from your success?

At Copa Airlines, we take pride in providing all our passengers with world-class service, the best on-time performance in the region, and access to the most destinations through the Hub of the Americas®. We are also proud of our ongoing efforts to ensure that we have a positive impact on society and reduce our environmental footprint. That is why our sustainability strategy focuses on promoting the growth and well-being of our employees, supporting improvements in the communities we serve, and protecting the environment.

We acknowledge the impact of aviation on the environment and are actively working to mitigate it. We invest in fuel-efficient aircraft, implement eco-friendly practices, and engage in carbon offset initiatives. The Airline also participates in conservation programs to protect the natural beauty of the regions we serve. We place our customers at the center of our corporate social responsibility efforts.

Given the nature of our business, Copa Airlines is deeply committed to protecting the environment. That is why all of us at Copa keep the three R’s (reduce, reuse, and recycle) in mind as we go about our work. Our aircraft maintenance programs, ongoing upgrades to our fleet, and investments in new technologies also enable us to operate more efficiently, reducing our carbon footprint and our impact on the environment.

Prioritizing passengers is among Copa Airlines and Ocando’s recipe for success. Photo courtesy of Copa Airlines.

As we are in Hispanic Heritage Month, and given your position at Copa Airlines, what is your advice for other companies in achieving this representation in leadership positions?

My advice for them would be simple and old school: diversity DOES lead to broadening perspectives which DOES lead to better results and richer corporate culture.

Latinos have peculiar elements (importance of family, warm/caring and jovial character, entrepreneurial spirit, etc.) which could very positively impact a company’s culture and its decision making.

Copa Airlines continues to promote tourism and economic growth as the leader in Latin American travel. Photo courtesy of Copa Airlines.

With over 75 years in operation, 81 destinations from 32 countries, and a bright future ahead of its young and modern fleet, what’s next for Copa Airlines?

Copa Airlines’ 2023 planned initiatives focus on strengthening the Hub of the Americas®, its primary connection center in the region, by increasing its network of destinations and flight frequencies, as well as growing and improving its fleet of aircraft. In 2023, Copa expanded its service to four new destinations: Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Manta, Ecuador; and Barquisimeto in Venezuela.

With the addition of these destinations, Copa Airlines expanded its network to a total of 81 destinations in 32 countries throughout the Americas. The Airline hopes to add several new destinations in 2024.

By incorporating three new routes and increasing flight frequencies to a variety of destinations, Copa Airlines estimates an 11% growth in the number of passengers compared to 2022. At the end of 2023, it expects to transport 16.1 million passengers while operating 328 daily flights, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

As part of the 2023 plans, Copa Airlines added 15 new B737MAX aircraft, an investment of $2.1 billion, to their latest order. These aircraft are additions to the existing 2015 order and are expected to be delivered within the next 5 years.

The Airline will continue to implement successful initiatives that promote tourism and economic growth in Panama, such as the “Panama Stopover” program, which encourages in-transit passengers to spend a few days in the country. Since 2019, the program has attracted more than 260,000 visitors, and it is estimated that over 115,000 tourists will take advantage of the Panama Stopover in 2023.


Cover photo courtesy of Copa Airlines.

Martin Ramirez is a brisket-eating, Shiner-loving, road-tripping enthusiast of all things Texas. This Dallas-born writer / adventurer is ready to take his ‘78 El Camino to find the best in food, fun, and fitness throughout the Lone Star State.