Review: Copa Airlines Business Class Rio de Janeiro to Panama City, Panama

Posted on January 2, 2014 by in Airline Reviews, Travel Deals

Book your flight on COPA here.

Just over Christmas I had that idea to go from Rio de Janeiro to North America. So did many others – and availability with United miles was thin. Luckily Copa airlines made a number of routes available so I jumped on it – fully clear that their 737-800 product was more like domestic first class (or worse!)

GIG airport is not exactly known for it's luxury services. So I kept my expectations low but I feel it was still underwhelming. The remote airport of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan was more modern and equipped. Check-In was rather chaotic with Web-Check in and Economy passengers jumping the lines with the help of the check-in agents before business class passengers. Star Gold and Business Class passengers were sent back in line and Economy passengers were checked in immediately. That's how you make sure nobody pays up to Business Class!

The lounge that COPA uses in GIG is a contract lounge and probably the most basic lounge I have seen anywhere. I couple of old chairs. Warm beers, warm white wine and some open bottles of red wines in the heat. While the majority of the airport was cooled to 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit) the lounge was a smoking 35 degrees (90+ degrees Fahrenheit) hot.The only bright spot – the WiFi was fast and easily accessible.

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Copa exclusively uses 737 and Embraer aircraft for it's route network. The flight was a solid 7 hours – just at the top of the range of the aircraft. The seats were a notch above domestic first with a foot rest a rather wide recline (90 degrees?). The seat configuration is 2×2 in Business Class. Both cabins were fully sold out as far as I could see.

This was a late night flight departing at 2.40 AM local time. However no pre-departure drink was offered (no water also). The FA's promised to bring out a cold snack after take -off but I was sleeping before takeoff and did not wake up besides 3 minutes for the breakfast picture.

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Flight attendants also brought out a water bottle just after takeoff.

Panama Airport is a modern facility – 30kms outside of the city. However immigration was chaotic and slow. No priority lines are available for business class passengers. Just the non-resident line was long with residents walking through immigration in seconds. Not ideal!


I had no desire prior to test out Copa airlines for a good reason. However I was glad that I could fly them as it fit my schedule in a wonderful way. I also got a 13 hour layover in Panama City out of it.

The product is on par with American or United domestic First Class. The lounge and check-in were as bad as it gets but that might not be much better for other airlines departing from GIG.

Book your flight on COPA here.

About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]

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