Review of Copa Airlines flight Panamá City Quito in Economy

Airline Copa Airlines
Flight CM 829
Class Economy
Seat 33A
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 02:00
Take-off 14 May 16, 09:35
Arrival at 14 May 16, 11:35
CM 69 reviews
NGO85
By 1103
Published on 21st May 2016
Background:

This series will cover a quick weekend mileage run on CM down to UIO. I saw a cheap $380 round-trip fare in “E” fare class, which earns the full 100% mileage with OZ (5.2 cents/mile). This will be my first time flying CM, my first flight with split scimitar winglets, and my first trip to the South America. The routing was picked to leave Friday evening after work and return Sunday night as to not burn any vacation days.

Part 1 – LAX-PTY [CM 362, Boeing B737-800, Business] – Here
Part 2 – PTY-UIO [CM 829, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – You are here
Part 3 – UIO-PTY [CM 828, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – Here
Part 4 – PTY-LAX [CM 302, Boeing B737-800, Business] – Here

This report will cover the trip from PTY to UIO and a stop at the Copa Club. CM operates 5x daily service PTY-UIO so they have a strong presence in Ecuador. In case you don’t read the report, do NOT select an exit row seat on CM unless you are fluent in Spanish.



Pre-flight:

After arriving off my LAX-PTY flight, I went straight to the Copa Club. It was not very easy to find and I walked past the entrance three times before I finally noticed the small sliding door wedged in between some shops. Checking in upstairs was the standard affair. I hand over my boarding pass, she comments “you are only *A Silver,” then I slide over my TK *A Gold card and she scans me into the system.

photo 1.

There are two showers in the lounge and I notice one is free so I ask to use it. I’m escorted in and left to freshen up after the redeye. The shower room is acceptable by apopearance; however, there was no hot water…

photo 2.photo 3.

After a cold shower, I went to stop by the buffet for a snack. The buffet was pitiful (pictures will be in Part 4), it was worse than any US domestic lounge. There was some cereal, yogurts, toast, and packaged fruit. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a hotel’s continental breakfast look worse than the Copa Club’s offering. My scavenged snack:

photo 4.

Boarding documents.

photo 5.

After 5 cups of coffee, I headed off to stretch my legs and look at some planes.

UA B739.

photo 6.

CM B738 in a special livery for the Panama National Team.

photo 7.

CM’s Columbia operations with planes operated by Aero Republica.

photo 8.

PTY was clean, but a little on the crowded side.

photo 9.

My steed today, a CM B738 in “Sao Paolo FC” special livery.

photo 12.photo 13.




—————————-

Copa Airlines, CM 829
Equipment: Boeing B737-800 [HP-1831CMP, “Sao Paolo FC” special livery, delivered March 2013]
Departure: 9:35 (ATD: 9:51)
Arrival: 11:35 (ATA: 11:39)
Flight time: 1:48


I missed the boarding call when I was walking around so I was the last of the PreferAccess people to board before the general boarding started up. The nice glass jetbridges in PTY.

photo 10.

The threshold of the plane. The FA in the galley was pouring PDBs and ignored passengers boarding.

photo 11.

The cabin aboard this UA, I mean CM, B738.

photo 14.

My reserved seat, 18A, an exit row seat.

photo 15.

Seat pitch is generous as expected in the exit row.

photo 16.

As boarding was wrapping up, this is when things went downhill. A FA approached me and just started saying something very quickly in Spanish. When he was done, he said in English “What did I just tell you?” I shrugged my shoulders and said that he was explaining the exit row instructions. He said, “No,” then told me that I can’t sit there unless I can follow his instructions in Spanish. He told me to grab my things and walked me to the back of the plane and put me in 33A, the last row of the plane. This was all done with a cabin full of passengers staring and watching the entire exchange. Could this have all been handled a lot more professionally? I think so.

My newly acquired row. The final quarter of the plane was pretty empty.

photo 17.

The pitch seems better than the 31” they list on seatguru, and this seat does recline (seatguru says it doesn't).

photo 18.

The nostalgic CO checkerboard fabric.

photo 19.

As boarding completed, the FAs came through and handed out Ecuador arrivals forms.

photo 20.

The safety card on this B738.

photo 21.photo 22.

The route map and fleet for CM.

photo 23.photo 24.photo 25.

This plane has the new CM cabins and therefore all of the seats have personal IFE. The content was the same as I had in Part 1. I only used the moving map.

photo 26.

BSI cabin.

photo 27.

Our Purina tug drives off.

photo 28.

As we taxi out, we cross the CM B738 in Panama National Team special livery.

photo 29.

Good thing this plane has AC, otherwise we might be melting… Where on earth did they put this temperature sensor? Also note that this journey will be starting from sea level.

photo 30.

We turn onto the runway and are off.

photo 31.photo 32.

The sexy split scimitar winglets as we cut through the cloud layer.

photo 33.

The majority of this flight is over the Pacific Ocean.

photo 34.

The snack is handed out.

photo 35.

This looks a lot like a Hot Pocket. It was meat and cheese inside and served warm.

photo 36.

It was also served with plantain chips.

photo 37.

Drink service immediately followed. I just asked for water.

photo 38.

I always get nervous when the plane starts to veer away from the final destination midflight.

photo 39.

The captain came on and said there was heavy storm systems off the coast so we were taking a detour around them.

photo 40.

We eventually arrived at Quito.

photo 41.

The clouds finally broke and Quito was visible below.

photo 42.

We looped around the southern side of the city to approach UIO from the south. Ecuador has a stunning topology of mountains, plains, and valleys. Unfortunately, due to the high altitude, it is a very bumpy descent into UIO as the pilots struggle to maintain altitude and speed.

photo 43.photo 44.photo 45.

The Ruta Viva as it crosses over the Chiche River Valley from downtown Quito.

photo 46.

You almost feel like you are landing into the river valley as you dip into UIO.

photo 47.

We crash down and hit the brakes hard. We arrive slightly late due to the detour in our route over the Pacific Ocean.

photo 48.

UIO is at an altitude of 2.4km (~8000ft).

photo 49.

Taxing past an EQ A319.

photo 50.

It’s very quiet at UIO, with no other planes at the international side of the airport.

photo 51.

Views of the cabin deplaning.

photo 52.photo 53.

The Movistar sponsored jetbridge.

photo 54.

Immigration is fairly quick. The officer was friendly and gave clear instructions regarding the customs declarations forms.

photo 55.

Welcome to Quito.

photo 56.

I head straight out through customs (all bags have to be x-rayed). I was surprised to see a complete lack of taxi vultures exiting the baggage claim. I went up to the counter and arranged a taxi to my hotel. All of the taxis are flat rate depending on the part of town; it is $26 to the Historic Center (~40 minutes). I’ll leave off this series as I start my stay in UIO. As a word of advice, although Ecuador uses the USD, $20 bills are not common in Ecuador and most people expect you to pay with small bills ($1 and $5). Every $20 bill was scrutinized for authenticity.
See more

Verdict

Copa Airlines

7.0/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew2.0
Entertainment/wifi9.0
Meal/catering8.5

Copa Club

3.0/10
Comfort2.0
Meal/catering1.0
Entertainment/wifi6.0
Services3.0

Panamá City - PTY

8.0/10
Efficiency9.0
Access6.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness9.0

Quito - UIO

8.0/10
Efficiency9.0
Access4.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

CM offers a pretty good product, but it is just marred by poor crews since the hard product and catering was pretty good for Y standards.

Cabin comfort: The brand new B737s with BSI are clean and comfortable. The seat pitch is pretty good in Y.

Crew: Continuing the trend of mediocrity, this crew was no different than before. The handling of the exit-row issue was not handled professionally, the rest of the crew was very passive.

Meal and catering: A pretty good snack offering on a 1.5-hour flight. Only negative is that they don't offer any hot beverages (coffee/tea).

Entertainment: No newspapers offered. Standard seatback literature. Personal IFE in Y on a short flight is definitely good.

Related

18 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 349176 by
    Chibcha SILVER 460 Comments

    crews are the biggest spot on CM's service...they're lame as they come.

    Great views of Quito's east side, the first part you saw is called Tumbaco and Cumbayá, they're mainly high class suburbs.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 349316 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "crews are the biggest spot on CM's service...they're lame as they come."
      - After my 4 flights on them, this was pretty consistent. Part 3 had a decent crew, but that must be the minority for crew experiences. The hard product is definitely good on their newer planes. I'll fly them again in July down to BAQ so we'll see how that goes, but I expect an analogous experience.

      Thanks for stopping by Chibcha!

      • Comment 349569 by
        Chibcha SILVER 460 Comments

        Well, I've found that P5 crew are better than their CM counterparts, at least they seem to enjoy their work. But I don't know if this is so after Copa has basically finished Copa Colombia.

        I look forward for your report to BAQ!

  • Comment 349232 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 5654 Comments

    Thanks for this report on Continental....I mean United...I mean Copa! The Unitental influence is not only apparent in the identical cabin, but in the crappy Copa Club offering. It's like a United Club from several years ago. U.S. airline clubs have improved since, but the Copa Club has kept the same low standards. And no hot water for the showers is positively third world. Well, I guess after a redeye, a nice cold shower was invigorating, lol.

    CM sure has a lot of special liveries! The FA was right to remove you from the exit row, but what a shitty and unprofessional way of going about it. Just more anecdotal evidence of a Copa FA with poor people skills. I would be pissed if I had been spoken to that way--that little smart ass. So many reports of apathetic FAs is indicative of a poor company culture.

    But there are positives about Copa as well. The brand new aircraft with BSI and IFE is nice. A hot snack in Y on such a short flight is also above the U.S. carrier standards. And, one good thing to come out of being moved to the back is that you had a nice clear view for aerial shorts. In the Exit row, the wing would have blocked your view. The setting around Quito really is beautiful.

    All in all CM offers a good product, just with shitty crews, which sadly, can ruin the experience.

    • Comment 349317 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "The Unitental influence is not only apparent in the identical cabin, but in the crappy Copa Club offering. It's like a United Club from several years ago."
      - Everything is identical down to the nasty wood check-in desks. The lounge was also under renovation so part of it was closed off. The lounge does get nice tarmac views, but it is too crowded to enjoy or relax. There is a bar with bartender, so alcohol is available only on request.

      And no hot water for the showers is positively third world."
      - Seriously, it never got above 18-20C. I tried to get a shower on the return, but they were all taken so I can't comment if it was a one-time problem or a recurring issue there. The showers were at least fairly nice visually...

      "The FA was right to remove you from the exit row"
      - I agree 100%, their request to have only fluent Spanish speaking passengers is completely reasonable on a carrier operating flights between to Spanish speaking countries. This should have been made clear online, or during check-in at LAX. The agent checking me in at LAX should have caught this mistake (in Part 3, the UIO agent caught this error and asked me where I wanted to be moved). Check-in at LAX was handled by CM employees, maybe that explains it...

      "But there are positives about Copa as well. The brand new aircraft with BSI and IFE is nice."
      - It's one of the nicer Y narrow-bodies I've been on. The return is on the older B738 with no personal IFE, so you'll see both options. You can tell the difference by the number of rows. The removed a row of Y to increase the J pitch from 38" to 50" so you can actually see what version you are getting when picking flights. I liked the little meal tray too, made for quick distribution and quick collection. They even offer wine in Y, forgot to mention that in the report^^

      Thanks for your comments Kevin!

      • Comment 349319 by
        KévinDC TEAM GOLD 5654 Comments

        You're right that they should make the Exit Row requirements clear online and at check-in. As you know, on U.S. carriers, when you select an Exit row seat, there is a pop up message listing the requirements and asking if you meet them.
        Good to know there was free wine in Y!

  • Comment 349239 by
    Numero_2 10022 Comments

    Merci Michael ! ^^

    "In case you don’t read the report, do NOT select an exit row seat on CM unless you are fluent in Spanish." -> That's quite odd from CM.

    "then I slide over my TK *A Gold card and she scans me into the system." -> Sesame ouvre-toi. ;)

    "The shower room is acceptable by apopearance; however, there was no hot water…" -> Like in NBO KQ lounge.
    Anyway cold showers are good for health. lol

    "I can’t even remember the last time I saw a hotel’s continental breakfast look worse than the Copa Club’s offering." -> Even the coffee looks bad...

    This economy flight isn't bad at all, I like the cabin and the catering is original.
    Any idea about the drinks selection ?

    • Comment 349311 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD 5654 Comments

      "That's quite odd from CM."
      - I don't find it weird. In the U.S. you have to be over 15 years of age and speak fluent English to sit in the Exit row in order to give and receive instructions in English. So it makes sense that an airline from a Spanish speaking country would have similar regulations for Spanish.

    • Comment 349318 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "That's quite odd from CM."
      - I agree with Kevin, I don't find it odd since it is a carrier operating flights between Spanish speaking countries; I just don't like how the issues was resolved. I've been kicked out of exit rows for stranger reasons, like not being old enough^^ (NH domestic series I never posted)

      "Anyway cold showers are good for health. lol"
      - Health and hypothermia?^^

      "Even the coffee looks bad..."
      - That's why I needed 5 cups, it was sooooo dilute. It was also from one of those push top carafes that you see at conferences^^ That was the only coffee source in the lounge, they had to refill it every 30 minutes, lol^^

      "This economy flight isn't bad at all, I like the cabin and the catering is original."
      - CM was surprisingly nice on short regional hops. Acceptable catering and IFE^^

      "Any idea about the drinks selection ?"
      - They had all the normal water, juice, soft drink selections. I don't know about beer (didn't ask), but they had several bottles of wine on the cart.

      Thank you for your comments Clement!

  • Comment 349245 by
    aussenrist 225 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this report with nice pictures always!

    The Copa Club offering was poor (unitedlization? lol). For me no hot water for shower is very unacceptable. For the food offering I would console myself that the lounge cares about the passengers’ health…

    Personally I would think it was just a United aircraft in CM livery. The crew who handled the exit row issue was very unprofessional. But nice snack offering for this flight length. The pocket looks appetizing (totally beat out the sandwich on your KIX-SFO flight :P). And the scimitar winglets backgrounded with blue are very beautiful^^

    Look forward to your next report!

    • Comment 349320 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "For the food offering I would console myself that the lounge cares about the passengers’ health…"
      - That Activia yogurt keeps me regular and the corn flakes are good for lowering my cholesterol ;) I don't like how the fruit was wrapped in plastic though, that just worries me about mold or mildew.

      "Personally I would think it was just a United aircraft in CM livery."
      - The liveries are the same^^ They just made the globe a little more fancy on the tail after they split from CO.

      "The pocket looks appetizing (totally beat out the sandwich on your KIX-SFO flight :P)"
      - They even handed out seconds to passengers that requested more. I saw several FAs walking them out after the service.

      This is also bordering on competitive with Asian carriers on flights of 1.5 hours in length. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Comment 349273 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thank you Michael for this continuation of your South American adventure.

    "I hand over my boarding pass, she comments “you are only *A Silver,”
    - Sounds derogatory to me. Definitely CM needs to send their employees to Customer Service school.

    "The shower room is acceptable by apopearance; however, there was no hot water…"
    - Why bother offering a shower in the first place if there is no hot water? or was this a one time off incident?

    "The buffet was pitiful"
    - And the trip heading south continues.

    "The FA in the galley was pouring PDBs and ignored passengers boarding."
    - Good for J pax, bad for the rest. At least they make an effort to serve PDB's.

    "The cabin aboard this UA, I mean CM, B738."
    - Sounds like an evil twin. :P

    "A FA approached me and just started saying something very quickly in Spanish. When he was done, he said in English “What did I just tell you?”
    -If I ever fly on CM and sit on the EMER exit row, i better not have any crew member pull this on me. The way that this was handled was utterly unprofessional and I commend you for not losing your cool.

    "He told me to grab my things and walked me to the back of the plane and put me in 33A, the last row of the plane. This was all done with a cabin full of passengers staring and watching the entire exchange."
    - The sadistic FA made you do a walk of shame. I think a letter to CM is in order.

    "The snack is handed out."
    - Finally something positive about CM.

    Great landing shots. i too would have been nervous if my flight would deviate from its path without a reassuring explanation from the cockpit.

    Looks like CM is just a functional airline and one that you shouldn't go out of your way to fly with.

    • Comment 349322 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Gracias Adan!

      "Sounds derogatory to me."
      - There was a tone of dismissal in her voice, but she changed her tune quickly when the card came out. It's just one of those things that keeps popping up as I use my TK card to get my OZ card.

      "or was this a one time off incident?"
      - The showers were occupied on the return layover, so I don't know. I'll check again next month if I get the chance. Either way, not a great start to the morning. A cold shower and poor breakfast, sounds like prison.

      "And the trip heading south continues."
      - Just wait for the pics in Part 4, you will get a nice chuckle and throw away your CM card.

      "Good for J pax, bad for the rest. At least they make an effort to serve PDB's."
      - The people boarding in front of me he was ignoring were J passengers...

      "Sounds like an evil twin."
      - Not if both twins are evil ;)

      "If I ever fly on CM and sit on the EMER exit row, i better not have any crew member pull this on me."
      - Aren't you fluent?

      "The sadistic FA made you do a walk of shame. I think a letter to CM is in order."
      - It was a walk of shame alright. I got a survey from CM about my experience after I got back. Maybe I will complain. I won't get anything, but it will at least let them know how their service is viewed. My experiences are not outliers based on what people have experienced with them. They need a kick in the butt.

      "I too would have been nervous if my flight would deviate from its path without a reassuring explanation from the cockpit."
      - In this day and age, this is an unfortunate reality. If we didn't have IFE, I would have never known (double edged sword).

      "Looks like CM is just a functional airline and one that you shouldn't go out of your way to fly with."
      - True, but I have another trip in 5 weeks with them. I'm not dreading the trip, but I'm also not chomping at the bit to go on the trip. The *A Lounge at LAX is the only aspect of that trip to look forward to^^

      • Comment 349325 by
        jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

        "you will get a nice chuckle and throw away your CM card."
        - What card? I am still waiting for it despite previous attempts at requesting the physical one. In the meantime I just use a print out "card", but thankfully that is not a problem and I've been able to access the UA and SQ lounges @ LHR with it.

        "The people boarding in front of me he was ignoring were J passengers..."
        - This is worse than I thought.

        "Not if both twins are evil ;)"
        - Lesser evil twin then. :P

        "Aren't you fluent?"
        - I love the range of reactions that I get when I open my mouth. ;)

        "They need a kick in the butt."
        - Sounds like they need more than a kick if they plan to become a major player in Latin America.

        "The *A Lounge at LAX is the only aspect of that trip to look forward to^^"
        - I need to visit this lounge one of these days.

  • Comment 349309 by
    757Fan 608 Comments

    Sorry to hear the service was quite lacking on your flight down to Quito.

    My only complaint is that flying Copa, is like flying United. Could they not have changed some aspects of the cabin interior to make it look a bit more unique? Or a more different color scheme?

    Great photos from the flight!

    • Comment 349323 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "Sorry to hear the service was quite lacking on your flight down to Quito."
      - This is common problem on CM, everything is like pulling teeth. They won't do anything extra. You have to extract service out of them and pray they don't give you the "look."

      "Could they not have changed some aspects of the cabin interior to make it look a bit more unique? Or a more different color scheme?"
      - I wouldn't be surprised if they are buying the seats from UA, lol. Since UA is stripping these seats out of the long-haul fleet, it wouldn't be surprising to find that they end up in CM planes.

      Thanks for stopping by Matthew!

  • Comment 350407 by
    Rl 777 806 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    No hot water in the lounge? The food offering wasn't close to being acceptable either.

    The weather seemed to be pretty nice in PTY, it made for good spotting shots!

    It's that you got a bird with Split Scimitars and in a special livery.

    The situation was handled in a very poor manner IMO, based on your information. Thankfully it was quite empty at the back of the plane.

    80 degrees celsius outside? Haha.

    How did the snack taste? Was the meat too dry?

    Absolutely stunning aerial shots! The South American landscape is breathtaking!

    The cabin looks great with BSI and IFE.

    The flight seemed to be pretty good except for the bad crew. A bad crew can seriously ruin a flight IMO.

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 351972 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      "No hot water in the lounge? The food offering wasn't close to being acceptable either."
      - The lounge is really bad, it feels even more crowded than the terminal. It really is awful considering this is CM's hub.

      "It's that you got a bird with Split Scimitars and in a special livery."
      - Almost all of the CM planes have split scimitar winglets, they were one of the launch customers like UA.

      "Thankfully it was quite empty at the back of the plane."
      - I was the only person in my exit row, so it would have been pretty empty there too ;) The only advantage of moving to the back was that the wing was not interfering with my aerial shots on arrival at UIO :)

      "80 degrees celsius outside? Haha."
      - Probably was 80F, but comical nonetheless!

      "How did the snack taste? Was the meat too dry?"
      - The meat was in melted cheese so it was no dry. The meat was drier on the return flight in Part 3. In my opinion, a hot snack on a 1.5 hour flight in Y is very good service. Better than a cold sandwich like most other carriers would offer.

      "Absolutely stunning aerial shots! The South American landscape is breathtaking!"
      - Ecuador is beautiful country worth visiting. I plan on going back for a longer stay in the future based on this quickie.

      "The flight seemed to be pretty good except for the bad crew. A bad crew can seriously ruin a flight IMO."
      - Thankfully the interaction with crews is minimal on CM (mainly because they are never working!).

      Thanks for your comments!

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