Review: Copa Club Panama City Airport

Filed Under: Copa
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Before I begin my next major trip report, I have a couple of random reviews to catch up on. Last month I did a mileage run to Panama City, where I spent a night. American publishes some great business class fares to Panama, and nowadays American offers double elite qualifying miles for paid business class travel. So these fares are a fantastic way to requalify for Executive Platinum status on the cheap.

I routed the trip from Los Angeles to Panama via New York and Miami, and the roundtrip fare came out to under $800. I just want to review two aspects of the trip — the Copa Club in Panama City, and then in the next installment I’ll review the Waldorf Astoria Panama City, where I spent the night. While I haven’t yet reviewed flights on Copa, early last year Nick reviewed his flights in Copa business class, for anyone who is interested.

Our American flight from Panama to Miami departed at 7AM, so we got to the airport at around 5:30AM. Check-in was efficient, though it’s a bit odd that there’s no oneworld lounge at Panama City Airport, and they don’t have provisions for offering premium passengers lounge access.

Ironically the airport signage specifically indicates there’s an Admirals Club, which is a reflection of when these boards were last updated — the Admirals Club closed in June of 2012. 😉

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Admirals Club signage Panama City Airport

As far as I know, the only lounge at Panama City Airport is the Copa Club. Fortunately it’s also a Priority Pass Lounge, so you can access it if you have a credit card with lounge benefits. As a reminder, the following US credit cards offer Priority Pass memberships, and are a better value than paying for a membership outright, in my opinion:

Now, the above are the generic access benefits, though there’s a catch, as individual lounges can add their own restrictions. Per Copa’s website, there are two further restrictions when it comes to Priority Pass access to the Copa Club Panama:

  • Priority Pass cardmembers can only take one guest, even though normally you can take up to two guests
  • Priority Pass members can’t access the lounge between 4PM and 7PM due to crowding (though I’m not sure how consistently that’s enforced)

The terminal at Panama City Airport is rather dated.

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Panama City Airport terminal

The signage for the Copa Lounge is lacking, though once you clear security just turn left and head towards gate 21, as the lounge is adjacent to it.

Back in the day, Continental had a 49% stake in Copa, so you’ll notice that everything about the airline looks like it’s straight from Continental.

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Copa Club Panama City Airport entrance

The lounge is located one level up from the concourse, so we took the elevator up.

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Copa Club Panama City Airport elevator

There were two rather matronly associates at the front desk, who informed us they wouldn’t call boarding for our flight. We got there at around 5:45AM, right as the lounge was opening.

According to Copa’s website, the lounge has seating for around 250 people, which sounds about right based on the look of it. The lounge consists of one main room, though there are some railings and pillars to make the room feel a bit more private.

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Copa Club Panama City Airport seating

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Copa Club Panama City Airport seating

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Copa Club Panama City Airport seating

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Copa Club Panama City Airport seating

The bar was located past the entrance and to the right, with several high-top tables, in addition to the bar counter. Since it was 6AM, the bar didn’t seem to be open yet.

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Copa Club Panama City Airport bar

Next to that was a room with some dining tables.

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Copa Club Panama City Airport dining area

And then there was also a TV room with some comfortable lounging chairs.

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Copa Club Panama City Airport TV room

The buffet was located right across from the reception desk, which seems like an odd place to put it. Generally the most crowded parts of lounges are the buffets and the reception area, so putting the two next to one another tends to lead to congestion. That wasn’t an issue at 6AM, but if the lounge is actually full during peak hours, I imagine it’s a different story.

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Copa Lounge Panama City Airport buffet

The breakfast spread was okay, exactly in line with what I remember having in a Continental President’s Club almost a decade ago. There were full size bagels, packaged muffins, fresh whole fruit, yogurt, cereal, and granola bars.

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Copa Lounge Panama City Airport breakfast spread

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Copa Lounge Panama City Airport bagels and muffins

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Copa Lounge Panama City Airport fresh fruit and yogurt

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Copa Lounge Panama City Airport cereal

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Copa Lounge Panama City Airport granola bars

I was also happy to see big canisters with coffee, rather than those nasty coffee and espresso machines which some lounges have.

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Copa Lounge Panama City Airport breakfast spread

We were in the lounge for about 30 minutes, most of which I spent getting caught up on work. The Wi-Fi in the lounge was decent enough. At around 6:30AM we headed to the gate for our flight to Miami, which was just a short walk away.

Copa Lounge PTY bottom line

Your lounge options in Panama are limited. If you have access, you should use the lounge. However, I wouldn’t arrive to the airport early to use this lounge.

While the Copa Lounge isn’t especially nice, it is significantly nicer than the terminal. This really felt like a throwback to the old days of Continental, given the design of the lounge. In general I haven’t been terribly impressed by lounges in Latin America, so maybe this place feeling like a Continental President’s Club circa 2005 isn’t that much of an insult. 😉

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  1. The priority pass lounge in SJO(Costa Rica) is probably the worst lounge I have been to in terms of offering. They charged for sodas… I flew around Mexico, south and central America a lot last year and didn’t really find a nice lounge. There was one in Bogota that was fairly reasonable. Mexico City’s lounges are poor.

  2. How is Ford accumulating/paying for all these flights now, esp as all of your trip reports say WE – he must love this new lifestyle

  3. Looks pretty much the same as I remember it from my visit several years ago (December 2012). FYI, I’m pretty sure there is another lounge at PTY, or at least there was at that time. The elevator to the Copa lounge was out of service, and my dad couldn’t make it up the stairs, so the desk attendant arranged for him and mom to have access to a different lounge at ground level. I don’t recall which airline the lounge was associated with, though.

  4. @global traveller

    Who doesn’t love a free ride?

    Sometimes it feels like these trip reports are just an excuse to pimp out CC referrals…

  5. If you spent some time in the Copa lounge in the afternoon or evening you might have had some additional impressions. It gets really crowded and as a result dirty / nasty. Still a lounge is probably better than not at PTY. Now the Copa lounge in Guatemala city, at least as of a few years ago, was excellent all around.

  6. Lounges in S. America are terrible, as are many of the airports. Throw in the chaos, noise, and dirtiness, and many are just like the cities they serve.

  7. Good to know that I didn’t miss much. I transited through there in early December and the Priority Pass directory had not been updated, so I didn’t know that I had access. But it would have been nicer than paying nearly $8 for 3 chicken tenders and a medium fries at Carls Jr in the food court that looks like a 90’s shopping mall.

    The restrooms in that airport were the worst with graffiti and no tp in the stalls!

    The Tocumen Royal lounge is pre-security, so I didn’t attempt to access. LoungeBuddy pictures show that it’s very basic. I noticed that there were no pictures of the lounge on their website, probably because there isn’t much to brag about.

  8. This place is an absolute zoo in the afternoon. It has some serious overcrowding issues during their main banks.

    Believe it or not, this airport has come such a long ways since I first coming to Panama in 2005. It had 1 (ONE) really crappy restaurant and no A/C. It was a disaster. They have done a good job, but honestly, they have a long ways to go. Panama is often compared to Dubai/Singapore, and although I have hope, its a long ways off!

  9. I Have an overnight connection in PTY in my flight from BOG to SXM in business class, do you know what time does the copa club close at night and what time does it open in the morning? I’m a bit concerned about spending the night at the airport but also have just 6 hours between the two flights. Any advice?

  10. I am currently in the Copa club lounge and would like to report on the Monday evening buffet. Carrot and celery sticks, 1 ounce packages of Gouda, packaged oatmeal cookies. Pitiful. Soft drinks must be ordered from the bartender who has a tip jar in plain view. I have a photo if I can figure out how to post it!

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