Copa Airlines Business Class: My Impressions

Copa Airlines Business Class: My Impressions

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I just flew Copa Airlines’ Boeing 737-800 business class from Miami, which is a flight that’s blocked at around three hours. While I’ll have a full review soon, in this post I wanted to share my initial impressions of the flight, because Copa sure is a unique airline.

Forgetting the aircraft swap, what did I think? Well, there were some things I liked about the experience, but there were also things that left a lot to be desired.

Copa is a quirky airline

I think a bit of background is needed on Copa, for those who aren’t familiar. Copa is basically a cross between Continental Airlines (RIP) and Icelandair. The airline essentially has Icelandair’s business model, using Panama as an efficient connecting point for travel within the Americas (in particular, to, from, or within Latin America). So whether you want to fly from Los Angeles to Santiago or from Miami to Caracas, Copa has you covered.

Why do I mention Continental? Well, because in 1998, Continental (now United) acquired a 49% stake in Copa, which the airline held onto until 2008. Continental wasn’t just a silent investor, but rather just about everything about the Copa experience is based on Continental back in the day, from the livery, to the cabin interiors, to the airline using Continental’s OnePass frequent flyer program back in the day (now Copa has its own frequent flyer program).

In terms of the passenger experience, flying with Copa really feels like flying with a US airline, for better or worse. With that background out of the way…

Copa Airlines’ livery even looks like Continental’s back in the day!

What I liked about Copa Airlines business class

There were a couple of things I liked about Copa. First of all, the food was actually pretty decent. Yes, it felt a lot like the meal you’d get on a US airline, but the quality was noticeably better. Service began with a lukewarm snack mix of sorts, served with drinks.

Copa Airlines business class snack & drink

On my flight there were two dinner options, and I selected the sliced chicken breast with rice and veggies. Then there was a (not great) salad, as well as a chocolate cake for dessert. The food was better than you’d get on American on the same route.

Copa Airlines business class dinner

The service was also pretty good. I mean, it wasn’t Singapore Suites or Air France La Premiere, but the flight attendant working business class was genuinely friendly and attentive, and that’s all you can ask for on a flight like this.

What I didn’t like about Copa Airlines business class

What I didn’t like about Copa is that it felt like flying with a US airline… in 2006. The seats were almost identical to what you’d find in domestic first class in the United States, which is totally sufficient. The cabin was nicely updated, with Boeing’s signature interiors, so at first I thought “great, I’m sure the tech onboard is good too.”

Copa Airlines business class seats 737-800
Copa Airlines business class seats 737-800

I think it’s interesting to note just how many different products Copa has, for an airline that exclusively flies Boeing 737s. In addition to the flat beds on Boeing 737 MAX 9s, select Boeing 737-800s feature business class seats with 49″ of pitch, while these planes with updated interiors have 38″ of pitch (and then there are also non-updated planes with 38″ of pitch).

I couldn’t wrap my head around the lack of amenities, especially in light of the cabin’s recent refresh. There were no power outlets of any sort. There was no Wi-Fi. There was no seatback entertainment. There was no streaming entertainment. I can forgive there not being one, or two, or even three of those things, but none of them… really?

It truly felt like a blast from the past. And some people might say “well you don’t need those things on such a short flight.” Fair enough, but:

  • Keep in mind that a vast majority of passengers are connecting on Copa, and may find themselves on another flight that has none of those things
  • Copa operates some really long flights with Boeing 737-800s, including Panama City to Rio de Janeiro, which covers a distance of nearly 3,300 miles, and is blocked at close to seven hours
  • You want your electronics to be fully charged before you end up in traffic in many cities in Latin America (Bogota, Sao Paulo, etc.) 😉

I believe some Copa 737-800s may have streaming entertainment, but it’s a crapshoot. The only entertainment is some destination related ads on overhead screens. I felt like I was flying TED in 2006 (how’s that for a throwback?!).

No power outlets in Copa Airlines business class
Overhead screens in Copa Airlines business class

Bottom line

Copa Airlines’ business class experience felt new (to me) but familiar. On the plus side, the flight had solid catering and friendly service. Copa’s 737-800s have interiors similar to what you’d expect in the United States, minus all the advancements that have been made in the past 15 years — there were no power ports, no Wi-Fi, no seatback entertainment, and no streaming entertainment.

It seems like Copa’s business model is essentially to capture any market that other airlines can’t cover based on its extensive route network in the Americas, but not much more than that. I suppose that’s fair enough, but adjust your expectations accordingly.

And stay tuned, because I connected from Panama to Lima on yet a different kind of Copa Boeing 737-800, which had much worse interiors…

If you’ve flown Copa business class, what was your experience like?

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  1. Aljavi Guest

    The poor selection in movie section is really bad. I don’t know why this people don’t update the entertainment selection.

  2. Jeb PreppyRN Guest

    The service sounds very like AM from Mexico, AV Central America & Colombia & LA South America.
    Let’s face it, any form of customer service is in the toilet when it comes to MIA. Passengers don’t help matters. It’s understandable why people don’t like flying to or from MIA.
    Someone mentioned receiving full meal service n MIA-PTY & your n FLL-PTY some sort of snack. Perhaps the reason for this is, it’s ULCC...

    The service sounds very like AM from Mexico, AV Central America & Colombia & LA South America.
    Let’s face it, any form of customer service is in the toilet when it comes to MIA. Passengers don’t help matters. It’s understandable why people don’t like flying to or from MIA.
    Someone mentioned receiving full meal service n MIA-PTY & your n FLL-PTY some sort of snack. Perhaps the reason for this is, it’s ULCC land to Sport so CM feels they don’t need to offer a better experience to their passengers.
    AV is transitioning to an ULCC. I’ve been wondering how they are going to handle their LH flights to JFK/YYZ/LAX not to mention anything trans-Atlantic. Their service has always been aloof & food over-cooked and nasty. It’s a wonder they offer a mini bottle of water.
    AM’s service is better than CMs. They are trying to be more consistent. They offer meal service in Y, albeit cold meals. LH is better but the ambivalent, better than attitude needs to go.
    LA has the potential to really improve things with DL’s investment in them. Let’s hope it gains. AA’s service is shoddy & if you are in a narrowbody, catering in Y is horrible & J isn’t any better often served with a delay & indifferent attitude.

    1. Aljavi Guest

      I hate fly to MIA. This airport are full all the time.

  3. Steve Palacios Guest

    I flew business class from pty to uio and it was the worst business class experience ever. What a horrible little airline with horrible service. They have us a bag of pretzels, I kid you not.

  4. TSC Guest

    I previously lived in Panama and traveled extensively on Copa because the government basically disallows slots to allow competition. Having said that I agree with the review of Copa. It's a miss-mash of service and aircraft that in many cases replicates Spirit. It is what it is. Management is tone deaf to making the required updates that would bring their aircraft into the 21st century. When competition is lacking this is the result.

  5. iamhere Guest

    Your expectations are too high. You think for a three hour flight, a low end Latin American airline will have a proper business class? Also, last time I checked nobody choses an airline for food. Basically you outline that your experience was fine but nothing special. You need to be more realistic in your comments and compare it to the alternatives.

    1. Fred T Guest

      If you read the whole article it says that for some people the 3 hour flight is followed by a nearly 8 hour flight. Even Ryan Air and Easyjet have charging ports.

  6. Alan Gold

    From 1999 to 2006 I flew COPA quite frequently back when those 737-800s were brand new. In fact it was one of COPA's selling points - they had the youngest fleet in America. It is a real shame they are becoming one of the oldest fleets. I also flew COPA back prior to their Continental investment - they had ancient 737s painted orange and yellow and a very limited route network - I tried to avoid them.

  7. Wesley C New Member

    Hi lucky, long time reader. Just out of curiosity now that you have a family, how does that impact your crediting miles/points strategy? i.e. Where do you credit for your Copa airline, as well as other alliance etc. Thanks!

    1. Michael Guest

      The POA-JFK prices until recently were $200-$300 cheaper for me then POA-EWR and I've been upgraded to Business class recently.
      Customer service is good and it was easy to access a person when a flight was canceled then quickly changed to another at no additional cost.
      Once one of my flights was 2 hours late and the airport staff kept in us notified.
      Switch planes at Panama is quick and easy compared...

      The POA-JFK prices until recently were $200-$300 cheaper for me then POA-EWR and I've been upgraded to Business class recently.
      Customer service is good and it was easy to access a person when a flight was canceled then quickly changed to another at no additional cost.
      Once one of my flights was 2 hours late and the airport staff kept in us notified.
      Switch planes at Panama is quick and easy compared to GRU and a few times my POA flight was at the next gate.
      So overall flying Copa has been a good experience for me compared to Avianca and Latam. ( BOG, GRU, and LIM ).
      Myself I credit my Copa flights to AirCanada.

  8. Greg Guest

    I flew COPA in business class in 2012 JFK-PTY-SCL and back from Buenos Aires-PTY-Costa Rica-PTY-JFK

    All the flights, food, and service were great. Remarkably, each flight pushed back like 15-30 minutes ahead of schedule!

    The lounges at JFK and PTY were dated.

    I would fly them again.

  9. mauipeter Guest

    COPA IAH to SJO was one of my worst business class experiences, about 3 to 5 years ago, booked with United miles. Everything was just basic. The food was the second worst I ever had on a plane, and when I asked for a gin tonic, all I got was a blank stare, and finally, 90 minutes after departure I got my first undefinable alcoholic drink.

  10. dander Guest

    Enjoy the comments whining about lie flat seats and such. Try to fly coach and get back to us normal folks

    1. glenn t Diamond

      Coach/Economy would be proportionally worse I expect, so thanks, but no thanks!

  11. Ken Gilberg Guest

    I'm an American living in Panama City and fly Copa all the time. Copa has a few things in their favor: they are almost always on time and, you do get fed most of the time. With that said, they have quirks that make no sense. I have flown PTY-MIA and had streaming entertainment via wifi on my cell phone; streaming entertainment via seat back monitor (in coach); and ancient drop-down screens with no choice...

    I'm an American living in Panama City and fly Copa all the time. Copa has a few things in their favor: they are almost always on time and, you do get fed most of the time. With that said, they have quirks that make no sense. I have flown PTY-MIA and had streaming entertainment via wifi on my cell phone; streaming entertainment via seat back monitor (in coach); and ancient drop-down screens with no choice of video. On this relatively short route, I've seen lay-flat beds in business on some flights. Oddly, when I lived in Chicago, they never flew the upgraded planes with lay-flat beds or even the improved interiors on that route, even though it's 5hrs vs. 2:45 from MIA to PTY. Even stranger is that on the PTY-MIA route, there's always a meal, but on the PTY-FLL route, about ten minutes longer, they only serve snacks. Go figure.

  12. Brian Guest

    I fly SFO to MDE & CLO often, Always on Copa and I have always had lie flat beds in business class. Copa is the only airline I'd fly anymore on these routes. American is trash and only flys through a FL or TX Airport. And Avianca is even worse.

  13. N515CR New Member

    49" pitch, on a 737???!!

    Also, to the Ted reference, RAR!

  14. Derek Guest

    Ben, I'm no Copa fan myself, but please get your facts straight before spreading misinformation. Copa has always had a split 737-800 fleet: about 3/5 have 49" pitched seats in J with built-in IFE and power ports (known as the 737-800B), while the remaining 2/5 have 38" pitched seats in J with no IFE or power (known as the 737-800A). They are NOT retrofitting the B's into A's.

    They try to prioritize the B's on...

    Ben, I'm no Copa fan myself, but please get your facts straight before spreading misinformation. Copa has always had a split 737-800 fleet: about 3/5 have 49" pitched seats in J with built-in IFE and power ports (known as the 737-800B), while the remaining 2/5 have 38" pitched seats in J with no IFE or power (known as the 737-800A). They are NOT retrofitting the B's into A's.

    They try to prioritize the B's on longer flights not operated by the MAX, e.g., GIG, JFK), but it's not a guarantee.

    Source: https://www.copaair.com/en/web/us/fleet

  15. SALVADOR SANTANA Guest

    I FLEW FROM PANAMA CITY TO SANTIAGO DE CHILE IN BUSINESS CLASS LAST MAY. I AM TOTALLY DISAPOINTED IN THE SERVICE ,FOOD, ATTENTION ETC. I HAVE NOTHING POSITIVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS AIRLINE. BUT THE WORST THING WAS THE FOOD. IT WAS DISGUSTING. I HAVE FLOWEN BUSINESS IN LUFTHANSA, AIR FRANCE, SINGAPOR AIRLINES, AIR INDIA, ETC. AND MY FAVORITE TURKISH AIRLINES AND MY ADVICE IS THE WORKERS OF COPA SHOULD TAKE SOME COURSES FROM THESE AIRLINES.

    1. XPL Diamond

      And they broke your caps lock key too.

  16. robert Guest

    Amateur... Need to get on their better airships, do your research . Copa is the best airline in Central/South America

  17. Andy Diamond

    I think Copa has about 3 different seat arrangements on their 738, plus two on their Max. The one pictured is what I would call "revamped dense". There is also a "dated dense", which always had 38' seat pitch but a much more ancient seat (many P5 AeroRepublica planes have these). Then there is a "spacious recliner", which is often used on the longer routes, e.g. to SCL, and consists of reclining seat but with...

    I think Copa has about 3 different seat arrangements on their 738, plus two on their Max. The one pictured is what I would call "revamped dense". There is also a "dated dense", which always had 38' seat pitch but a much more ancient seat (many P5 AeroRepublica planes have these). Then there is a "spacious recliner", which is often used on the longer routes, e.g. to SCL, and consists of reclining seat but with a much larger pitch (56' if I'm not mistaken). Then, there is the 737 Max 9 offering the "Dreams Cabin" which is a 2-2 full flat arrangement.

    1. brteacher Guest

      The "spacious recliner" is really nice. I like it better than a lot of "lie-flat" seats.

    2. Andy Diamond

      I would agree on a daytime flight. But I can’t sleep in those “spacious recliners”, so overnight I definitely prefer lie flat.

      But, in the case of Copa, I think the “spacious recliner” will stay and only the MAX 9 gets lie flat, at least for now.

  18. Tim Dunn Diamond

    The part of Icelandair that Copa is copying is being a low cost option between the US and S. America. I know many people that have flown them rather than nonstop on the big US or S. American airlines and they do it because of price.
    The problem w/ any small airline is upgrading service on older aircraft when they buy new, "fancy" ones. Regardless of whatever level of service an airline wants -...

    The part of Icelandair that Copa is copying is being a low cost option between the US and S. America. I know many people that have flown them rather than nonstop on the big US or S. American airlines and they do it because of price.
    The problem w/ any small airline is upgrading service on older aircraft when they buy new, "fancy" ones. Regardless of whatever level of service an airline wants - seat pitch, AVOD or power or not, dining - it needs to be consistent. Copa has not done a lot to get its aircraft up to a similar level of consistency. Adding lie flat seats is pretty complex but adding Wifi to an aircraft can be done in a few days and power to a select few seats not much longer than that.
    Copa doesn't see the value of brand consistency. When you fly 6-7 flights and connect passengers that could see the same level of service twice either at the high or low end, those amenities do matter.
    Before the UA-CO merger and when CO owned part of Copa, CO was part of Skyteam.

  19. VT-CIE Gold

    And the sad thing is this is any day better than everything that Avianca does. It’s a shame, in light of everything it’s done, that that airline remains in the Star Alliance.

    1. XPL Diamond

      Agreed. In its market, Copa doesn't have to be great, it just has to be better than Avianca. In that regard, where Copa shines is the soft product: employees who are usually friendly and helpful, and on even a bad day won't make you feel like something the cat left on the doorstep. Unlike Avianca.

  20. D3kingg Guest

    Is this your first time away from Miles ?

    1. Guillermo Garcia Guest

      I would like to fly Business Class to Rio or Buenos Aires whenever you have sleppers on that class. If not ,even as I like Copa a lot, I would not fly on this longer flights if not on better arragements. Sleeper Class seats are essential,I just don't understand why you have not done it, on all those routes.

    2. Bob Guest

      Miles is at home with Ford and Winston.

      Check some previous post.

  21. Regis Guest

    Copa is pretty unremarkable. Dated aircraft interiors, disinterested crew, substandard lounge in PTY. Nothing special, as is the case with all airlines in the Americas. I am South American and it amazes me this part of the world - from Canada to Argentina - does not have one single decent airline. Varig from Brazil in the 1980s was maybe the closest we got to it

    1. riverhorse New Member

      I have had zero issues with the crew, and sometimes I've flown with dysfunctional relatives that have always been handled with aplomb.
      Now, the PTY security biatches couldn't be more awful.

  22. michael matos Guest

    I fly Copa all the time Mia-bsb. I think you may have had an old airplane as I have always had in seat entertainment and power ports. this is flying 737-800's. Given that I found your experience surprising. I really like copa going to Brasilia because the flight time is similar to AA or Gol that Flys direct. I like the small break I get in Panama City Pa. I am pleasantly surprised with new...

    I fly Copa all the time Mia-bsb. I think you may have had an old airplane as I have always had in seat entertainment and power ports. this is flying 737-800's. Given that I found your experience surprising. I really like copa going to Brasilia because the flight time is similar to AA or Gol that Flys direct. I like the small break I get in Panama City Pa. I am pleasantly surprised with new terminal in Panama. it is modern and nice. I have not had the chance to experience the Max 9 business class but the 6 hour flight from Panama City to Brasilia would be nice with lie flat seats. I find the service to be consistently pleasant and professional. I have flown almost all the carriers to and from the us to bsb. I like Copa for the combination of price, good service, and reasonable flight experience. ( In fairness when LATAM was flying their A350's, that was my favorite but that is gone ) Not trying to start a debate, just my 2 cents

    1. Megan Guest

      Ben's point is this is not an old plane. Or at least not an "old" interior. Copa spent the time and money to update the seats but not anything else. Lame for business class.

  23. RetiredATLATC Diamond

    Was there no in-armrest pullout screen?

    I just booked an ATL-PTY-SCL for the Spring and I thought I had read that screens were available in the armrests.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ RetiredATLATC -- The old style seats with 49" of pitch had personal televisions in the armrests, but these planes don't, sadly.

    2. RetiredATLATC Diamond

      Going the way of AA. I really dislike watching anything on my personal device.

    3. riverhorse New Member

      AA for decades a national embarrassment of rudeness and ineptitude- particularly egregious given their name.
      I'm flabbergasted JetBlue joined them.

    4. Greg Guest

      I just flew AA in the last 3 weeks: PHL-AMS in their more space Economy (not Premium Economy to be clear) and then 1st Class from LAX-RDU-LGA on a red-eye. The flights were fine. Baggage claim for priority-tagged suitcases was a problem in LGA. I am a lifetime Gold member.

    5. Carlos Guest

      Mostly good experiences with Copa. 40 minutes connections in PTY? Who else is doing this international to international?
      Small correction, Continental used to be Skyteam and moved to star alliance with the merger with United. Copa joined Star alliance in 2012, after the Continental-United merger.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

XPL Diamond

And they broke your caps lock key too.

6
XPL Diamond

Agreed. In its market, Copa doesn't have to be great, it just has to be better than Avianca. In that regard, where Copa shines is the soft product: employees who are usually friendly and helpful, and on even a bad day won't make you feel like something the cat left on the doorstep. Unlike Avianca.

5
VT-CIE Gold

And the sad thing is this is any day better than everything that Avianca does. It’s a shame, in light of everything it’s done, that that airline remains in the Star Alliance.

5
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