So after arriving from Bogotá, it was time to connect in Tocumen to my flight to Washington.
Copa Airlines has organized one of the world's most efficient and America's most efficient hub, you're practically able to go everywhere in the continent from Panamá. The airport had some renovations, and an extension, but is clearly victim to its main user's success. A new terminal is on the way though.
My previous flight arrived into one of the circular ended concourses, and then I had to go across the terminal into the new northern extension…
These concourses have seen little change since my first time in PTY 12 years ago.
Spotting is not an issue in PTY, but there isn't much variety to spot
Now in the central building, you get to go downstairs into Panamá, or you remain in the airport for connections.
Then you cross the main hall, ditto to the concourses. If you'd cross through the shops at the right you'd get to one of the renovated zones, at the gates where the widebodies are parked and there's a food court at the third level, but I didn't have the time to grab a picture this time.
Copa is Lord and Master of Panamá… B737s on the North Concourse
Copa Colombia's Embraer's feeding PTY from all over Colombia (if it weren't an international flight, thus more taxed, PTY would be a really interesting alternative to have domestic connections in Colombia since they fly to a lot of places here)
The new concourse
Shopping options looked tempting, but since I was headed to the US, I had no much interest in shopping. Prices are usually high and some shops have super high prices, so even when there is certain fame to PTY as a shopping heaven, be warned!
I had connected once in PTY to AMS (FR here), in that occasion I had my visa checked and asked some questions about why I was taking that flight, then I had a secondary security check. This time it was a secondary security check and that was it. The gate was cordoned off and that was it.
Boarding began soon enough and was somewhat orderly fashioned.
A 737-700 would take us to Washington
From the airbridge
I entered the plane and was greeted by a rather uninterested crew…the 737 showed its age and use, fortunately I had one of the best seats in the house. I had more legroom than the rest of the passengers (even those at business class!)
Filling the plane took its time, I was to share the trip with people from all over the continent, my seatmates were Americans, didn't talk to them though, I only asked for the lady besides for her pen to fill the customs form and that was it.
No neighbor at the time, a 737800 with scimitar winglets eventually was besides us but I was drowsy from my very early wake up and didn't take a pic, sorry.
We left the gate on time, and made a quick and short taxi to RWY 03L which was practically besides our gate
Take off was quick, we then navigated through the clouds and banked a lot…bummer for me, I didn't manage to see anything but the clouds, or else I would have been able to see the Canal
By the time we cleared the clouds, we were already over the Caribbean
The flight was scheduled to be around 5h long, the first 2 where rather uneventful, I read a bit and mixed the reading with some sleep.
Then IFE was on, they showed a pretty lousy movie about Mary Poppin's writer. CM's headphones were of such a mediocre quality they didn't have stereo sound, thus I had to recur to my own headphones to watch the film.
After riding to the US on DL and AV with PTVs, I shall call this old style travelling to the US.
Then lunch was delivered, I reckon there might have been options, but it was only CARNE (meat) for us, it was a sort of meat goulash with white rice and a piece of ripe plantain along with a sort of cole slaw (which I didn't touch)
Along with a minuscule plastic glass of coke. The meat was nice, I would have liked more plantain (I love it) and the rice was delicious. The dessert were some dry and fugly crackers, not a nice closing to a decent meal. Portions could have been bigger overall, how cheap of you Copa!
Food was picked up and the crew was seldom seen for a pair of water rounds.
We passed though the Bahamas' gorgeous seas
(dozed for a while, I was in a very comfortable position)
then I woke up and we were over the mainland…no Idea where's this probably NC or VA
It was certainly cold out there
My camera was constantly focusing the ice and couldn't get decent pictures of the view outside.
Out of the blue IAD showed up, allowing for nice views of the Airport
Then we crossed the Potomac and lined with RWY 19L…can you see the other plane landing?
The huge sprawl that surrounds DC, which is visible at the left (look for Washington Monument)
Landing was soft, not too forceful
Former North American 767s
ATC Tower and a pair of 777s
Some UA widebodies, not much activity at this hub though.
European big boys, I was a bit frightened to a huge queue at customs because of these guys…
The former ATC tower under renovations (I guess/hope)
A Luftwaffe A310, which I guess landed after us
We went of the plane and were herded into one of the moon boogies into the main terminal. And interesting, if not so efficient way of moving international arrivals.
Our plane after its long-ish flight from Panamá, getting ready to head back home
A TACA A320 from San Salvador
South African A343
The iconic moon boogies
Immigration was not so full when we made it, only a pair of flights had arrived by the time, but soon it got really full with loads of people arriving from Europe. The queue was fluid and there were ladies showing us where to form, making the process not so long.
Overall arriving on an international flight to IAD is not as painful as MIA, not was calm as FLL and not as quick and effective as ATL.
Most travel party was arriving from NY on a later flight, so I had to wait for them for a couple of hours. Another friend had arrived from SAL and we met at the baggage claim. We walked up and down and only found a beh café to have something to eat…the place was so cramped we decided to move out and see where else to go…we finally settled at some seats on the departures level to watch the rather slow plane activity at the field.
While Dulles is a beautiful airport…is a boring one when you're waiting for someone
Panamá City - PTY
Washington - IAD
My first flight on Copa on a flight other than between PTY and BOG, not the best impression of Avianca's main competitor.
The plane wasn't that old but it was so battered and cramped, I felt bad for all others who weren't on my row. Unless you're on the exit row Copa must be really uncomfortable. IFE is a joke, the film and the inflight magazine, and the headphone fiasco left me a really bad impression of the airline. Is as if they really don't give a damn about Y class costumers. Thankfully they're finally making some changes, but not at a very quick pace with just a select routes having the new cabins. That on the hard product issue. Soft product-wise, Copa isn't the best neither, it doesn't transmit the warmth and livelihood of us Latin americans. They are just doing a job, and doesn't look as if they're enjoying it at all.
I still don't get how Copa does so well when their prices are usually higher than AV and LA (at least from BOG), and their service is so lousy.
PTY is a very efficient airport, really good for connections. There are some options for having a good time while at it, but not the best really. Anyway my connecting time was so short I didn't need to do anything other than walking to keep myself amused. Secondary control was OK and swift.
IAD was decent enough for entering the US, I expected worse. Sadly, it is a very boring airport for waiting, not much to eat or do and until the Silver Line opens, a bit of a Pain in the back to travel to DC.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the trip back to Colombia,
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