New Panama Airport Terminal 2: Impressive(ish)

New Panama Airport Terminal 2: Impressive(ish)

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One of the things that I was looking forward to most about my Copa Airlines trip was checking out the new Terminal 2 at Panama Tocumen International Airport (PTY). This terminal opened just a few months ago (it was delayed by around five years, as it was first supposed to open in 2017), and marks a huge transformation for the airport. So, just how good is the new terminal, and how does it rack internationally?

Below are some thoughts…

Panama Airport Terminal 2 has great architecture

Physically Panama Airport Terminal 2 is remarkably nice, especially by standards for the region (Central America doesn’t exactly have great airports). The terminal is airy, has a huge amount of natural light, and feels spacious (after all, it’s 1.25 million square feet). Below is a picture that gives you a sense of the exterior architecture.

Panama Airport Terminal 2

Let’s do a “tour” of the terminal. Copa Airlines is the primary airline at Terminal 2, and the check-in hall is huge. I imagine this never gets too busy, since most passengers at the airport are connecting. Note that while Copa operates out of both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, check-in is exclusively at Terminal 2.

Panama Airport Terminal 2 check-in hall

Copa’s check-in area is well organized, with a separate premium check-in counter, and also lots of self-service kiosks.

Panama Airport Terminal 2 check-in hall
Panama Airport Terminal 2 check-in hall
Panama Airport Terminal 2 check-in hall

Security and immigration were well organized, and there was a Gold Track for Star Alliance premium passengers.

Panama Airport Terminal 2 security
Panama Airport Terminal 2 priority security

Below is a model of the airport that’s located in the terminal, to give you a sense of the layout. As you can see, the terminal is widest in the center, and then in each direction it narrows the further out you get, like a wing. There are a total of 20 gates in the new terminal.

Panama Airport Terminal 2 model

As you can see below, the terminal ceilings are really high, and there are floor-to-ceiling windows.

Panama Airport Terminal 2 layout
Panama Airport Terminal 2 layout
Panama Airport Terminal 2 layout
Panama Airport Terminal 2 layout
Panama Airport Terminal 2 layout

Panama Airport Terminal 2 & Terminal 1 are connected airside

Terminal 2 and Terminal 1 aren’t connected landside (you’d need to take a bus), though they are connected airside. Once you’re in Terminal 2, just turn left and keep walking, and eventually you’ll find yourself in the connector to Terminal 1. It’s 172 meters long, and there are moving walkways most of the way.

Panama Airport Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 connector
Panama Airport Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 connector
Panama Airport Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 connector

Panama Airport Terminal 2 is a massive improvement over Terminal 1

Terminal 2 is even more impressive when you consider just how bad Terminal 1 is. Panama Airport’s Terminal 1 is not only pretty ugly architecturally, but it’s horribly maintained. There are trash bins throughout the terminal — not for trash, but for leaks.

Panama Airport Terminal 1
Panama Airport Terminal 1
Panama Airport Terminal 1
Panama Airport Terminal 1
Panama Airport Terminal 1
Panama Airport Terminal 1

Panama Airport Terminal 2 is rough around the edges (for now?)

Panama Airport Terminal 2 is gorgeous in terms of architecture, but it’s lacking otherwise. We’re talking about a brand new terminal, but there are almost no outlets anywhere. That’s even worse when you consider that many Copa planes don’t have outlets in any cabin.

Panama Airport Terminal 2 layout

The only charging station I could find was the one below, which also… isn’t terribly practical or aesthetically pleasing.

Panama Airport Terminal 2 charging stations

Similarly, at least for now, concessions are lacking. There’s a Starbucks and a Krispy Kreme, but not much else. And even if you’re a premium passenger, don’t expect much from the food in the Copa Club. It looks like some stuff is under construction and will open eventually, but even for the areas that list who the future tenant will be, I wouldn’t get too excited.

Panama Airport Terminal 2 still under construction

The big problem with Panama Airport Terminal 2

You know the saying “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” or whatever it is? Well that’s a major issue with Panama Airport. Copa Airlines almost makes it sound like it exclusively operates out of Terminal 2 — it’s claimed you have to check-in and go through security at Terminal 2, baggage claim and immigration are at Terminal 2, etc. However, that’s not the reality.

A large percentage of Copa flights continue to operate out of Terminal 1 — my flight into and out of Panama both operated from Terminal 1. Just look at the below departures board, as the flights in purple are out of Terminal 1.

Panama Airport departures board

This limits the practical benefit of Terminal 2 having opened. Many Copa passengers are having to walk a lot further to get to their gates than they used to, whether they’re originating in Panama or connecting. This new experience would be much more useful if Copa actually managed to consolidate operations in one terminal.

I get there are limitations, but the reality is that for a large percentage of Copa passengers, Terminal 2 isn’t the extent of their experience.

Bottom line

I’m happy I had the chance to check out Panama Airport’s new Terminal 2. It’s a massive improvement over the old terminal in terms of design and general upkeep. There are still some things that seem to be lacking, like power outlets and concessions.

The biggest issue with the airport experience is that Copa still splits its operations between Terminal 2 and Terminal 1. And while the two terminals are connected airside, many Copa passengers aren’t getting a seamless Terminal 2 experience, but rather are just having to walk a lot more.

What do you make of the new Panama Airport Terminal 2?

Conversations (26)
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  1. Leon Guest

    Totally agree, same experience you had. Recently I flew back in from Costa Rica and the Copa lounge there, whilst not as visually appealing did have a good food selection which the flagship lounge in Panama lacks.

  2. Villel Guest

    This is the only airport that I have been and there was no return rental cars sign available. I got lost looking for the return car rental sign for 45 minutes.

  3. Manish Khushani Guest

    Lacks restaurants. Or you have to walk off to terminal 1 to grap food and snacks. Starbucks is worst takes over 20 mins to get your turn. Wass not worth opening if these facilities were not ready. It's the same what I before Covid times 2020. No change.

  4. Bob Guest

    What would I rather do? Walk a little faster to get to Terminal 2 for a flight leaving on time or waiting 4 hours for a crew to get to the departure gate in O'Hare. The first time I landed in Tocumen was in 1959. Been there many times after and saw a constantly better airport. Terminal 2 will get it together far faster than Denver did.

  5. Cindy Miller Guest

    I flew out on March 12th. We paid for the WiFi. But, none was available in the new terminal. I hope they fixed this problem. Our plane was delayed 6 hours. Not being able to charge our phone was very inconvenient. Why do you have to go through security twice? I went through the first security. Bought a water bottle , that I could not take through the security at the gate. Even though it...

    I flew out on March 12th. We paid for the WiFi. But, none was available in the new terminal. I hope they fixed this problem. Our plane was delayed 6 hours. Not being able to charge our phone was very inconvenient. Why do you have to go through security twice? I went through the first security. Bought a water bottle , that I could not take through the security at the gate. Even though it was bought at the airport. This may doesn't make any sense. No other country I have flown out of had two security checks. It's redundant.
    In addition to our flight being delayed, they waited several hours to issue food vouchers. By the time we got all the way over to the food court, only two restaurants were still open. They ran out of food.

  6. Daniel Guest

    I agree with with almost everything you comment, with a couple exceptions.
    First of all COPA needs both terminals since it operates in a hub/bank basis, meaning 40-some flights arrive in a relative short period of time, and 1 1/2 hours later those same airplanes leave, again in a short period, giving just time for passengers and their luggage to change planes ( whithout going through inmigration nor customs). It is one of COPA's...

    I agree with with almost everything you comment, with a couple exceptions.
    First of all COPA needs both terminals since it operates in a hub/bank basis, meaning 40-some flights arrive in a relative short period of time, and 1 1/2 hours later those same airplanes leave, again in a short period, giving just time for passengers and their luggage to change planes ( whithout going through inmigration nor customs). It is one of COPA's formulas for success. There is no way to fit over 40 aircraft in just 20 gates.
    Secondly I have to point out that to go between terminals groundside there is a free bus service that runs every 5 minutes.
    There is no need to take a taxi.
    Greetings.

  7. Felipe N Guest

    The terminal 2 actually is pretty nice. But if you are going to Grab a coffee get prepared to do a 20 min line at the only Starbucks. PTY Lacks of good places to grab a bite.

  8. Carol Storch Guest

    My flight from Miami to Panama was slow this on top of a slow disembark from the plane only gave little time to walk from Termal 1 to terminal 2. I did not expect this. I had to actually run and just got to my gate as they were closing the door.
    There was only 1 hour of time between flights which is little time for passengers to walk these distance especially with any delays.

  9. H Sierra Guest

    Ahh the short commings in the number of bathrooms on the gates area. I counted only two sets as it is difficult to navigate amidst throngs of people arriving departing or just connecting. And then they are very small .

  10. Michael Guest

    @lucky

    " It’s 172 meters long, and there are escalators most of the way."

    I think you mean moving walkways, not escalators.

  11. iamhere Guest

    The real issue is you expect it to be a first class kind of airport when it is not. You need to have realistic expectations with the situation and environment. Surely the lounge has outlets by the way.

  12. M Johnson Guest

    I'm surprised you didn't comment on the totally underwhelming domestic gates. Whoever approved this travesty should be fired.

    1. D. Wilson Guest

      Since the only domestic flights there are to David, and only 1 or two per day, the gate is actually a big improvement over the old gate in terminal 1. We were able to board the plane without the bus ride like from terminal 1.

  13. brteacher Guest

    I'm curious how the extension of the Metro to Tocumen is going. Anyone know?

    When it's connected, it will definitely make getting to any from the city much easier.

    1. H Sierra Guest

      Ahh the short commings in the number of bathrooms on the gates area. I counted only two sets as it is difficult to navigate amidst throngs of people arriving departing or just connecting. And then they are very small .

  14. Foxbat25 Guest

    I traveled Copa SFO-PTY-GRU in mid-July and GRU-PTY, then in mid-August GRU-PTY with 3 night layover then PTY-SFO. All PTY flights we were on only used T2. The concessions were all under construction so no food outside the Copa lounge which itself seemed undersized if it is the completed lounge. Signage inbound from SFO for connections was inadequate, as it was from GRU to claim luggage for our long layover. Not sure if the signage...

    I traveled Copa SFO-PTY-GRU in mid-July and GRU-PTY, then in mid-August GRU-PTY with 3 night layover then PTY-SFO. All PTY flights we were on only used T2. The concessions were all under construction so no food outside the Copa lounge which itself seemed undersized if it is the completed lounge. Signage inbound from SFO for connections was inadequate, as it was from GRU to claim luggage for our long layover. Not sure if the signage is a work in progress. T2 looks very nice otherwise, and yes, a big improvement over T1. Next through in December and January and I hope the construction is complete by then and we get to see if they have identified and corrected the things that did not work as anticipated.

  15. skimegheath Gold

    Ben do you what the process is to connect to another international flight? Am flying EZE TO PTY then onto to Ecuador.

    Are you going to review Hotel La Compnie in PTY. Am booked to stay there on my way back to PTY and keen to see a review.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ skimegheath -- You don't have to clear security or anything, so you just have to go to the gate. It's pretty straightforward. I did spend a night in Panama, but stayed at the Crowne Plaza at the airport. Hotel La Compañia looks awesome -- I hope to check it out next time. Enjoy your stay!

  16. Nathan Guest

    Is security still at the gate? That drives me crazy in PTY (and SIN)! I would rather get through and bring a few liters of water..

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Nathan -- There's a central checkpoint, and even in Terminal 1 it's at a central checkpoint, as far as I know (it must be, since they're connected airside). I'm guessing there's some extra security for US-bound flights, though? That's always annoying in terms of liquids...

    2. Nathan Guest

      I'm sure you are right that it is only for US bound flights.. unlike SIN! I have only ever connected in PTY so I wouldn't have experienced the central check in area.

    3. Roberto Guest

      There's always an additional security check before boarding U.S. Flights in Panama. This is due to number of passengers connecting from South America and the Caribbean. It's an pain in the neck for those passengers who do go through security in Panama to have this extra check.

    4. skimegheath Gold

      Singapore has water taps inside the gates. BYO water bottle and fill up for free.

    5. John Wade Guest

      For all the expats that live in Panama, the domestic flight connecting to int'l is pretty sad..PTY is the hub between the Americas but the effort given to domestic service so you don't have to transfer to the Albrook airport is disappointing.

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Leon Guest

Totally agree, same experience you had. Recently I flew back in from Costa Rica and the Copa lounge there, whilst not as visually appealing did have a good food selection which the flagship lounge in Panama lacks.

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Manish Khushani Guest

Indeed

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Villel Guest

This is the only airport that I have been and there was no return rental cars sign available. I got lost looking for the return car rental sign for 45 minutes.

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