Review of Copa Airlines flight Panamá City Washington in Economy

Airline Copa Airlines
Flight CM 304
Class Economy
Seat --
Aircraft Boeing 737-700
Flight time 04:55
Take-off 10 Apr 14, 09:15
Arrival at 10 Apr 14, 15:10
CM   #17 out of 94 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 77 reviews
By SILVER 4851
Published on 30th April 2014
Hello, this is part 2 of my USA trip last Easter.

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…
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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
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Now in the central building, you get to go downstairs into Panamá, or you remain in the airport for connections.

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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.

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Copa is Lord and Master of Panamá… B737s on the North Concourse
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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)
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The new concourse
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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
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From the airbridge
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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!)

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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.
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We left the gate on time, and made a quick and short taxi to RWY 03L which was practically besides our gate
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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
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By the time we cleared the clouds, we were already over the Caribbean
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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.
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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. photo IMG_6030photo IMG_6031

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)
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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
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(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
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It was certainly cold out there
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My camera was constantly focusing the ice and couldn't get decent pictures of the view outside.

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Out of the blue IAD showed up, allowing for nice views of the Airport

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Udvar-Hazy Centre

Then we crossed the Potomac and lined with RWY 19L…can you see the other plane landing?
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The huge sprawl that surrounds DC, which is visible at the left (look for Washington Monument)
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Landing was soft, not too forceful

Former North American 767s
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ATC Tower and a pair of 777s
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Some UA widebodies, not much activity at this hub though.
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European big boys, I was a bit frightened to a huge queue at customs because of these guys…
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The former ATC tower under renovations (I guess/hope)
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A Luftwaffe A310, which I guess landed after us
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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
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A TACA A320 from San Salvador
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Saudia 773
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South African A343
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Austrian B763
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The iconic moon boogies
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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
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See more


Copa Airlines

Cabin crew5.0

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,




If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 107703 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 6853 Comments
    Thanks for sharing! Cool to see a report to my city! I would hate to be on a 737 in Y for that long of a flight...even in an exit row. The moon buggies are called Mobile Lounges. There used to be even more of them before they built the underground train a few years ago. It is amazing how Copa can be so profitable with such a mediocre product. I hope you enjoyed your time in DC!
    • Comment 293615 by
      Chibcha SILVER AUTHOR 581 Comments
      I don't get why they still use the Mobile Lounges, at least they allow for cool views while travelling to the Main Terminal, they remind me of good ole Mirabel BTW.
      I guess they're profitable because they're cheap...making every cent out of your dollar count. DC was great, just in time for the Cherry Blossoms, weather was just in the perfect spot and had a great weekend over there.
  • Comment 107704 by
    jetsetpanda 2283 Comments
    Thanks for the interesting report and the quick description of PTY airport.

    I have often wondered about COPA and your report confirms my initial impressions of this carrier. It just does the job efficiently without too much warmth or charm. I think the reputation of PTY as a great shopping city was from decades ago and nowadays it is not that much of a bargain place. This was also confirmed by a relative who travels frequently and she is not impressed with the international stores and their selections telling me that it can be very overpriced and the selections can be from a few seasons behind.

    Your meal is on par with the offerings from Latin America. I remember fried sweet plantains on dishes served in F when I flew with AA from SJO. It think it is great that they add a local touch. Now, if they can serve something like a bandeja de antojitos it would be fantastic. If CM wants to really stretch the meals in Y, they can offer picadillo with rice and beans. It doesn't cost too much to make a meal out of ground beef and throw some beans. I bet it would be tastier than some average meals.

    I look forward to your next report.
    • Comment 293617 by
      Chibcha SILVER AUTHOR 581 Comments
      The experience with CM is disappointing at the most. I don't understand why someone would be willing to have seconds with them. I guess they must offer really good fares from other places in Latin America or the fact that they serve markets AV or LA don't.

      Panamá is overrated as a shopping experience indeed, I hadn't thought of it the way you did, but it's true, Panamá must have been a great place when Colombia for example was so closed to trade that everything imported was very expensive. But now times have changed, prices for imports are cheaper here. And the prohibitive price of a BOG-PTY does not justify the lame shopping experience, aside from the US visa, MIA is the clear, and cheaper choice for shopping.

      I wouldn't like beans being served on a that I come to think about it, does anyone serve beans? There must be serious concerns about giving 100+ people beans in a closed space.
  • Comment 107715 by
    Numero_2 TEAM BRONZE 10466 Comments
    Thanks for sharing !

    Copa Airlines has organized one of the world's most efficient and America's most efficient hub -> I'd agree with this for America but I'm more doubtful about the rest of the world, especially Asia. ;)

    A 5 hours long flight in such a awful plane !
    The movie was Saving Mr Banks, which is quite recent.

    Metal cutlery is a good point for CM.
    The meal looks average for Y class, even if I think it's a bit light for this long flight.
    Nothing else was served after the meal ?

    My worst US immigration + customs experience was precisely in IAD, when my LH flight landed just after two BA and AV planes...
    • Comment 293619 by
      Chibcha SILVER AUTHOR 581 Comments
      It's really effective, is there a way to measure this? I bet PTY would surprise many.

      Copa's old config. is really awful, I feel sorry for the people who ride those torture machines on to LAX or deep South America.

      Nothing else with the meal, only a pair of water rounds about an hour before landing. But not more for our bellies. The cutlery is a nice touch, but it makes me feel sad when used with such meagre serving.

      Now that I come to think about it, I guess one is on a race before the European flights arrive...I was lucky and got little to queue, but maybe the people on the ex CPH or LHR flights wouldn't agree with me.

  • Comment 107731 by
    KL651 TEAM 4535 Comments
    Thanks for this FR.

    On a 5 hour long flight, it's curious to wait so long before serving lunch.

    The fabric found on the seats (same as CO) really looks bland too.

    I guess you won't be flying CM unless they're cheaper than AV and LA.
    • Comment 293616 by
      Chibcha SILVER AUTHOR 581 Comments
      Just wait for the JFK-PTY report...that one is even more curious.

      Regarding the fabric, I agree Copa has made a name of its own, they should begin to unmark themselves from UA. Ditto for the livery.

      Indeed, and not only cheaper...significantly cheaper. Sometimes the possibility of tasting a new product and riding on more aircraft than the direct option are game changers for me, but I won't throw my money away on such a lame service again (at least on flights longer than 3 hours). Unfortunately LA doesn't go to the same amount of places as CM and AV from most of times is either red or blue for me.

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