Pepe Zapata flying high.

Author:Arredondo, Cesar

Running is a passion for airline executive Jose Zapata. With seven marathons under his belt, he still trains as often as he can, on weekdays and on weekends. "Running clears your mind and helps you come up with new ideas," Zapata states apparently suggesting a connection between the sport and his personal success in business.

Maybe, just maybe, all that long-distance running helped thrust him to his new, higher position in the flight business. Zapata is Delta Airlines' new general manager for Central America and the Caribbean.

The appointment announced in September is the latest of several promotions he has earned since his arrival at the major U.S. carrier six-and-a-half years ago. Zapata joined Delta's Specialty Sales Development Department in 2009 and moved relatively quickly up the ranks spending little over a year in each post, including his previous job in district sales for the states of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Zapata, who has a 30-year-long career in the airline industry, is based in Dallas, Texas.

Central America figures prominently in Delta's recent global expansion. The airline, among the top three largest in the U.S., has served that region of Latin America for about a decade and a half, with a sizeable growth in the past few years that now connects ten Central American cities with the rest of the world, according to Zapata. That includes direct weekly flights between Los Angeles and four national capitals, Guatemala City, Managua, San Jose and San Salvador, he says. It also connects those major Central American cities and others with Atlanta. "We have weekend flights between the region and Detroit and Minneapolis, too," adds Zapata.

That expansion is a response to the travel needs of the increasing immigrant population living in the U.S. "There's been an increase in (flights) demand and we have capitalized on it," explains Zapata, who added that Los Angeles has long been a destination by Latin American clients, especially from Central America, who come to the United States for business and pleasure, and to visit family and friends. "L.A. is a very important port of entry," he notes. Los Angeles County is the...

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