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Copa 362 & Copa 117
Los Angeles (LAX) – Panama City (PTY), Panama City (PTY– Santiago, Chile (SCL)
Depart LAX: 9:08 PM on January 29, 2016
Arrive PTY: 6:37 AM
Depart PTY: 12:29 PM
Arrive SCL: 8:52 PM on January 30
Duration: 12 hours, 52 minutes total flying
Aircraft: Boeing 737
Seat: 1A (Business Class)

I spent over a month in Hawaii, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, India, and Los Angeles over the holidays, but in late January I flew back to Southern South America, my winter (summer here) home.

I flew from Los Angeles to Santiago, Chile in Copa Business Class on an award I booked for 35,000 Asiana miles plus taxes.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 7.30.05 PM

Copa Business Class is not a fancy flat bed, and the food and service are far below international standards. I’m writing this trip report because Copa offers so much award space that you can easily book to Central or South America with any Star Alliance miles, including most easily with United miles and most cheaply with Asiana miles.

Los Angeles Ground Experience

Copa Airlines flies out of Terminal 6 in Los Angeles, not the Tom Bradley International Terminal. I arrived at 5:30 PM for my 9:08 PM flight, and a sign at the check in counter announced that check in would begin at 6 PM. It actually began at 5:56 PM, so good work beating expectations.

I checked in, caught an Uber to a nearby mall to get some last second shopping in at cheap American prices, and made it back to the airport by 7:45 PM.

When I cleared security, I headed for the Alaska Airlines Board Room lounge. I don’t believe flying Copa Business Class out of Los Angeles offers any lounge access, which is an anomaly. Usually flying international Business Class–even on award tickets–gets you lounge access throughout the journey. But in this case, there is no Copa lounge at LAX and no partners that fly out of Terminal 6.

Luckily my Citi Prestige® Card comes with free Priority Pass membership among many other benefits, and Priority Pass members get free access to the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms among hundreds of other lounges.

The Alaska Airlines Board Room at LAX is fairly typical for an American airline. It has a bar with some free drinks…

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.25.24 PM…and a small spread of free food including cheese, salad…Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.25.28 PMfresh fruit, soup, crackers, pretzels…Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.25.37 PM…and a self-serve pancake machine.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.25.54 PMThe food is suitable for a snack, but not a meal.
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.25.45 PMThe lounge was fairly crowded in the evening.Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.25.50 PM

After half an hour, I headed to the gate, arriving thirty minutes before departure. Boarding was underway, and there was no separate line for Business Class, so I was stuck in line for a bit.

Copa Airlines Business Class Flight Experience

Copa Airlines Business Class is very similar to domestic First Class on American airlines. Large recliner seats are arranged 2-2 across a single aisle with four total rows. Pitch is 38″, just like in domestic First Class, which is about seven extra inches of leg room compared to economy.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.22.59 PM

I had window seat 1A on both flights, which both featured full cabins. Each seat had a small pillow and blanket.

Both flights offered a pre-departure beverage and a menu.

On the first flight, I fell asleep immediately after take off with a small assist from melatonin and a big assist from jet lag. (I had flown in from India two days before in Etihad A380 First Class.)

I woke up during the breakfast service, but sat motionless with my eyes closed until late in the descent into Panama City.

While Copa Business Class is not nearly as good for sleeping as Business or First Classes that offer a bed, it is good enough when I am exhausted. I imagine I slept considerably better than I would have in economy where I might have been too squeezed in to get any rest.

Here is a picture of how much leg room someone 6’4″ has in a bulkhead seat in Copa Business Class.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.24.07 PM

After a six hour layover (review of that in the next section), I boarded my flight to Santiago. This boarding area did have a Premier Access lane, so I was able to skip the line.

Immediately after take off, the meal service started with a drink and mixed nuts.

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This was followed by salad, a warm roll, and ceviche.
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.23.30 PMFor the main course, I ordered steak, which was served with risotto and carrots.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.23.12 PMFor dessert, I had a sundae, which came with individual containers of chocolate and strawberry.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.23.18 PM

The meal was basically plane food that would be acceptable in economy, but not up to the standards of international Business Class or a restaurant. The steak was tough and chewy, although the carrots and risotto were much better. You cannot mess up a sundae, so all smart airlines should serve it in the premium cabins.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.24.13 PMAfter the meal, I napped another three hours.

When I woke up, I finally checked out the entertainment options. A small screen comes out of the arm rest. There was a small and typical selection of TV shows and movies. Most Copa flights are 3-7 hours, so there isn’t need for much more.
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.23.25 PM
I never had use for the power outlets, but all Business Class seats have them.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.24.27 PM

We landed on time with beautiful views of Chile on the descent.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.24.18 PMJust before landing, a flight attendant came around and thanked each passenger for flying.

Ground Experience in Panama City

If you fly Copa Business Class, you get access to the Copa Club in Panama City. It is crowded and dinky. The food selection is basically chips, fruit, cheese, and crackers.
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.24.38 PMThe bar is a bit better.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.25.05 PM

The seating areas were fairly full all morning.
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.24.54 PM Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.25.00 PM Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.25.15 PM

The lounge has a small Business Center.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.24.46 PM

It also features showers you can reserve at the check in desk.

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Bottom Line

Copa Business Class is like flying domestic First Class or international Premium Economy. It’s about halfway between economy and a true international Business Class. I managed to sleep about three-quarters of my two flights.

You get enough leg room and free food and drinks. You get lounge access most places. But you don’t get a bed, good food, or personalized service.

You should definitely book United, Air Canada, or Avianca Business Class to South America when that space is available instead of Copa space.

But Copa space is widely available as a back up plan, and for 35,000 Asiana miles one way, it’s a much better deal than booking economy to South America for 30,000 United miles one way.

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