Traveling to Central America or the Caribbean and the first airline that comes to mine certainly isn’t Panamanian based Copa Airlines; however with last minute fares from LA to Santa Domingo at only $430 after taxes (5.5 cents per mile) I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to fly Copa Airlines economy class. I had only flown Copa two other times, one was a very short flight from Guatemala city to Costa Rica in 2006 and another time was on a short domestic flight in Colombia right after Copa bought Aero Republic. Each flight previously were short but pleasant experiences, so I was looking forward to trying Copa Airlines economy class on a longer flight.
In LAX Copa flies from Terminal 6 and has a very small check-in counter tucked alongside the United counters. If you weren’t paying close attention, with the similar logo and writing one would miss the Copa signage all together. Overall check in was a breeze, I arrived 1 hour and 5 minutes before my flight and the plane had already announced that it was boarding. There was only about 2 people in front of me and the Copa Airlines employees were very helpful, friendly and efficient in both English and Spanish.
Security was a breeze, it was almost 1 am and there was only 1 other family in front of me. At this hour only a small number (2 or 3) flights depart from T6, so only 1 security lane was open. The TSA agents again where in a good mood (two weeks in a row!) and the Nude-o-scope wasn’t in use! I breezed through and headed towards my gate.
Thankfully at LAX Copa uses T6, although United (Old continental) has a number of gates here, the Copa section furthest from security in the section that was recently remodeled by Alaska Airlines. I won’t go into details of the terminal, because I’ve done so in the
past, however I will say the remodeled section of T6 is very comfortable and every seat has power. The only problem with departing so close to 2 am is that everything was closed. Not a single restaurant, shop, bar or duty free store was open. Thankfully boarding started soon, and before we know it we had worked out way to our seats and were getting ready to take off.
As I boarded the plane I worked my way to my seat and surprise, someone else was sitting there. Watching two other people fight over a seat in row 12 (exit row non-reclining) I wasn’t looking forward to confronting the man sitting in my seat. However as I approached and asked him if it was his assigned seat, he quickly apologized and got up and moved! Phew fight for the reclining exit row seat diverted!
The Copa Airlines economy class seat was a standard economy seat found on most 737s today. It was fabric not leather, and probably only reclined 3-4 inches. However being that I was in the exit row, despite my poor Spanish skills (just nod and say si), I would say it was one of the best seats in economy (other than the bulk head). The other exit row seats were so far in front of me, I couldn’t even touch them when sitting in my seat upright (not reclined) and the seats in front of you do not recline. There was plenty of room to stretch out and make the most of the next 6 hours.
Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendants came through with free headphones for everyone (TVs dropped down from the ceilings). Sure they were cheap headphones, but honestly they were each in new wrapping and the best free headphones I’ve had in coach in a LONG time! I of course had my Boise, so I just took a pair to examine, and then I used my own personal headphones, but for those who forgot theirs, these would be adequate.
About an hour into the flight the Flight Attendants reappeared with their drink carts. One FA served pretzels and cookies to everyone in coach and the other did drink service. It was the first time I’d ever seen an airline have full size bottles of alcohol instead of mini bottles. I asked for Rum on the rocks, and sure enough I got a full cup of rum and just a little bit of ice! It would have taken at least 3 mini bottles to fill up my cup! I was shocked by the serving size! And the best part was it was free! A true DoubleWide Delight!
I did enjoy the drink and snack service, something no US airliner offers (free booze that is) I was somewhat annoyed that they turned on the cabin lights to provide the service. Other airlines will often do drink and meal service with low or no cabin lighting. It was irritating to be woken by the bright lights. Thankfully, the free rum made me happy and I was soon asleep again.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, because I was sleeping and don’t recall much of it. However about an hour before landing I was woken up with a plate of hot food on my tray table. Being a vegetarian I had requested a special meal and when I awoke it was awaiting me to devour. My breakfast consisted of pinto beans, mushrooms, and spinach, along with fresh fruit, yogurt and bread. My seat mate opted for the egg and sausage option, and the lady next to him had pancakes. Everything looked very edible for coach and everyone seemed satisfied! Again free food on an economy class flight to Central America is a whole new experience. Better yet, if was included in the fare! Another DoubleWide Delight!
Shortly after breakfast the cabin was cleaned up and we were preparing to land in Panama City. Flying in we got a good view of the city, flying over the canal and then circling over downtown. My first segment of two on this trip was very comfortable. Going forward, Copa will be my first choice when flying economy to Central America or the Caribbean.
Side note: Copa has NOT unbundled their fares. Included in the price are Food, check bags, and select alcoholic beverages. Furthermore, Copa is part of the Star Alliance and MilagePlus. United MilagePlus elite members are eligible for upgrades on ALL Copa flights.