Copa Airlines Economy Review Los Angeles (LAX) to Panama (PTY) and Panama to Aruba (AUA)
I had been on Copa Airlines in Business Class (Review) and Copa Economy Class (Review) before. The two Economy Class flights were like two different airlines - the good Copa and bad Cop(r)a both came out in those two flights.
Since our flights to Aruba were the last part of the 35,000 miles award that included Mexico and Honolulu I had booked last year with Singapore Airlines, we were set on Star Alliance. Going to Aruba the award availability on United was non-existent so when using Singapore Airlines Krisflyer miles COPA was the only choice left serving the airport.
Now Copa departs from Terminal 6 in Los Angeles. It does not get much worse than this. It's old, crowded, loud and the lounges not worth visiting. We would have a six hour layover and weren't happy to stay there at all. Luckily I was able to check in online using my Singapore Airlines record locator at the Copa website. The mobile boarding pass would not work but I was able to get a PDF that opened on my iPhone.
With this in hand we made our way to the International Terminal (just a 10 minute walk away) and talked everyone into letting us through. We weren't sure if it would work but I presented my Turkish Airlines Star Alliance Gold card and everyone accepted it after being extra skeptic and reminding us that Copa does not depart from this terminal. The Star Alliance LAX lounge was a fantastic experience and one you should not miss out on!
After a few hours it was time to go back to Terminal 6. Copa does not process TSA Pre and so were stuck in the regular security line which would snake through the while terminal. It was just 45 minutes to our flight and it would move slowly. However we eventually made it through and got to the gate exactly when our boarding group was called. We marched through and sat down in a 737 that would be completely full that night.
Copa uses 737, single aisle planes exclusively and runs them to an amazing range of more than 3,000 miles. Los Angeles, San Francisco and all the way down to Sao Paulo or Montevideo. Copa has a very mediocre Business Class product especially for such long flights but Economy isn't so different than what we saw on an Air France A380 (Review) last year. The seat pitch is very decent and the IFE is brand new and shiny. We had a full row for the three of us and felt it was decent space. Since the flight departs 11 PM we were counting on sleeping most of the time - and so we did. After a quick take off and a left turn we all fell asleep pretty much until outside Panama.
We may have missed out on a breakfast that came through but we were just not hungry. Landing was 45 minutes early into Panama.
Panama Airport is a pretty miserable affair. The loud announcements, the raging crowds, the AC that produces either very cold air or supercharged heat isn't helping. The COPA Club would refuse to let us in with two children. The Star Alliance policy says one guest, so I do not blame them though most lounges interpret it as one adult or two kids these days. I reviewed the COPA Club in Panama before and it's comparable to a 'beat up' United Club so besides a shower nothing to look forward to.
There is a Cuban breakfast in the airport spot that saved the day with edible empanadas and good 'cafe con leche'. Once boarding was called for our flight for Aruba we were super happy to get out of this airport.
We had a bus gate and the Embraer plane was a new one with shiny leather seats. The shorter flights are operated by AeroRepublic which is based in Cali, Colombia. The crew was super friendly and the flight wasn't completely full. We took off on time and asleep I was until we gt into a holding pattern outside Aruba airport. We eventually made our approach onto the windy island and landed on time. The bus transfer and immigration took a good 45 mutes since the crowds were huge on this pre-holiday weekend. With us a Spirit, two American and a United plane landed at pretty much the same time.
COPA has nice, clean and modern planes with friendly flight staff. The ground operations are horrendous and run by zombies. If this sounds all too familiar - no wonder its much like Turkish Airlines (see my last review on Turkish Airlines Business Istanbul to Houston</a)>. COPA is decent to fly in Economy just make that you get out of the airport into the city or schedule a short layover - you will thank me later!