Airlines The Copa Airlines Boeing 737-800 that took me from Panama to JFK.

Published on December 29th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut

The Copa Airlines Boeing 737-800 that took me from Panama to JFK.

AIRLINE REVIEW: Copa Airlines Boeing 737-800, Panama City to JFK

On my most recent trip to Panama City, Panama, I flew United Airlines one way (read my United Airlines flight review here) and back on Copa Airlines. Here’s a description of my economy-class travel experience on Copa.

THE ROUTE: Panama City Tocumen International Airport to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (4 hours, 20 minutes), Boeing 737-800, Economy Class

THE AIRPORT: Panama City’s Tocumen airport is the home base for Copa Airlines, and a huge percentage of travelers are connecting here rather than originating here. That means that check-in and security lines are often  relatively short – and that was the case during my trip from Panama. There was no one in line at all when I arrived at the check-in counter (I had printed my boarding pass in the business center at the Hotel El Panama so just needed to drop off my checked baggage), and only two people in line for security.

There is a variety of shopping and a food court inside the secure area. Since I had a pass for the Copa Club, I headed there quickly. The club is large and has ample seating, and current renovations should make it even more comfortable. I especially liked the floor-to-ceiling windows, which are great for plane spotting. A bar serves free drinks, and a self-serve snack counter is stocked with an array of cookies, crackers, cream cheese, regular cheeses, water and coffee.

My flight left from gate 8A, which is in the new north pier, a modern and spacious upgrade compared to the two older concourses (construction is underway on an even more massive addition to the terminal complex). Every passenger for the JFK flight had to pass through yet another security screening at the gate, removing jackets, hats, shoes and computers and putting all carry-on bags through an X-ray. A security agent then said I couldn’t bring my water bottle aboard the plane, even though I’d filled it inside the airport’s secure area. This is a pet peeve of mine, and it seems to be part of the security procedure for U.S.-bound flights in Panama and Costa Rica, even though other nations don’t have such a requirement.

THE AIRCRAFT: The Boeing 737-800 was painted in Star Alliance livery. I walked through the business class section straight to the economy class, where a pillow and blanket was placed on each seat (something that many airlines no longer do). Economy seats also have personal video screens and headrests with wings (one of my favorite things). Flight attendants distributed free headsets before the cabin door closed for departure.

THE SERVICE: A free dinner was served during the flight, with a choice of pasta or beef with mashed potatoes. Unlike my United Airlines flight from Newark to Panama City, inflight movies and on-demand TV were free on this Copa Airlines flight.

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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