My journey from Panama City to Los Angeles onboard a Copa Airlines 737 MAX in business class represents a big step forward for the Panamanian carrier. A lie-flat bed in business class and upgraded soft products make Copa far more competitive than it ever has been.
Copa Airlines 737 MAX Business Class Review
I booked my one-way ticket from Guatemala City – Panama City – Los Angeles for $327, which I thought was ridiculously expensive considering nonstop flights were half the price, but allowed me to use my United Airlines Plus Points to upgrade the PTY-LAX flight.
I requested the upgrade here on United’s website, and it confirmed immediately, deducting 40 PlusPoints from my MileagePlus account. However, it took Copa three days to re-issue the ticket. In fact, Copa proactively did nothing. I knew the reservation and ticket were out of sync and called Copa to re-issue three days before my flight. The agent said it would be done within 24 hours. It wasn’t. I called again 24 hours before and the agent told me not to worry and it would be done soon. It wasn’t. Finally, four hours before my flight I called and insisted I wait on hold while the ticket was re-issued. It finally was, allowing me to check-in online.
Lesson learned: hound Copa until your ticket is re-issued.
Transit In PTY
Panama City is such an easy airport to transit it. My scheduled layover was only 63 minutes and while I knew I would easily make the flight, I was not sure if I would be able to be first onboard to secure pictures of Copa’s new business class.
But my flight from Guatemala City arrived early and I my connection to Los Angeles was only a short walk away. In PTY, you clear security at the gate, so I had to go through security once more and even remove my shoes since this was a USA-bound flight.
I skipped the lounge, but would have had access to the Copa lounge (which is really nothing special).
About 50 minutes before scheduled departure, boarding began (even though my boarding pass said boarding would begin one hour prior to departure).
Copa Airlines (CM) 302
Panama City (PTY) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Wednesday, August 11
Duration: 6hr, 52min
Aircraft: Boeing 737 MAX 9
Seat: 3A (Business Class)
I was stopped from entering the aircraft on the jet bridge because there were two mechanics onboard fixing a business class seat. Finally, I was given the green light to board and immediately impressed by the new cabin.
Copa’s chosen seats for its “Dreams” business class cabin are not unique – the B/E Diamond can be found on American, Delta, and United as well as many carriers outside the USA. But the 2-2 cabin of 16 seats really makes a difference on a flight scheduled for nearly seven hours. Seats are 21 inches wide, recline 180º, and seat pitch is 60 inches.
I was more impressed by the “Dreams” branded bedding, including a plush pillow and blanket that helped me to take a nice nap after the meal service. The personal air nozzles also helped.
Seats controls were located in the center console, power ports on the other side of the seat, and foot space was quite narrow.
While the cabin initially appeared clean and fresh, it was not carefully cleaned. I found trash in the small storage compartment below the in-flight-entertainment screen.
I also found a generous buildup of crumbs in the seam of my seat when I placed it into lie-flat mode.
Frankly, this seem to be an issue across multiple airlines and I did not bother to report it. But there is no excuse for it.
IFE + Wi-Fi
Despite the brand new aircraft, wi-fi internet as not available. There is a wi-fi network called Copa Showpass that offers streaming videos and music, but no internet connectivity.
Meanwhile, the built-in IFE system is very easy to use and responsive, with movies, TV shows, music, games, moving maps, connecting gate information, and even the Copa magazine. The only thing missing was the selection: less than 30 movies were available, none of which I wanted to watch or had not already seen.
IFE could be controlled by touching the screen directly or via a handset.
Noise-cancelling headphones were provided and worked well.
The lack of movie selection or TV show selection gave me a perfect excuse to take a long nap.
Meals + Drinks
Just a week before my flight, COPA finally brought back a modified meal service to flights over three hours. Real glasses, ceramic plates, and reusable cutlery were back, and that itself makes a huge difference.
Meal service began with a choice of beverage and packaged almonds. I ordered a glass of red wine and sparkling water. The wine bottle was not shown and I could not tell you what kind of red wine it was other than dry and acceptable.
Every business class passenger was also provided a bottle of water.
Main course choices were chicken or beef…no menus were provided and the flight attendant did not go into detail about the two choices. I chose beef, which turned out to be a beef stew served with saffron and green beans. On the side was asiago cheese crackers with an artichoke cream dip, a green salad, and a dessert of yellow cake with cream and chocolate icing. The meal was served with every course covered.
I concluded dinner with coffee, which was strong and somehow did not inhibit my sleep. I asked about decaffeinated coffee and was told it was not available (no espresso either).
Service was lovely and attentive for the first portion of the flight. Drinks were refilled and the meal service was prompt. Passengers were not addressed by name, but the flight attendant smiled and seemed to like her job.
After the meal service, I nodded off to sleep, but woke up several times over the next few hours. I noticed the front galley was empty. Passengers were not proactively asked if they wanted anything more to drink, despite the long duration of the flight.
While the flight attendant call button was available, I would not call the service proactive.
Copa offers amenity kits to business class on flights over six hours. The bag included a stylized Copa logo on the bag itself (or was that a Union Jack?), on a tag, and on the zipper chain.
- eye shade
- lip balm
- hand lotion
- info card on 737 MAX
I liked the socks!
The lavatory includes the latest generation Boeing narrobody sink, which is too small and causes splashing (hence the instructions to clean up after yourself). In addition to hand soap, hand lotion and facial mist were available.
I give Copa mixed marks. The seat marks a huge improvement over its 737-800 business class seat. Compared to Avianca, Copa also offers a far superior soft product on longer flights. But I didn’t like the dirty cabin or the lack IFE selection or internet. While that’s tolerable for a late-evening or overnight flight, it would be much harder to endure for daytime flights.
I won’t go out of my way to fly Copa again, but I would be happy to fly Copa again (as long as the flight is over three hours).