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Monday 28 August 2023

My First Visit to Central America with Copa Airlines Boeing 737-700 (BOG-PTY)

 Welcome to my Copa Airlines trip report part 1! 

This is Copa Airlines' Boeing 737-800 spotted at Panama City Airport (PTY)


While I was browsing through some of the airline's airfares, I came across a couple of great deals including this airline and the price of the one way business class ticket from Bogota to Santiago via Panama City was about the cost of an economy class ticket of Avianca and LATAM on Bogota to Santiago direct. So without hestiation, I booked the ticket via a 3rd party app (Flight network) as the airline's website/mobile app would not accept my credit card just like LATAM and Avianca. The flights that I picked were scheduled to be operated by both Boeing 737 MAX 9 but later on, after a numerous number of changes, my flight to Panama City was finalised to be operated by 737-700 and the connecting flight to be operated by 737 MAX 9. Not a bad change as the 737-700 is getting rare these days. 

About Copa Airlines 

Copa Airlines is the national carrier of Panama, based in Panama City. The airport, Tocumen International Airport is the main hub of this airline and is founded in 1944. Copa Holdings are the owners of this airline together with Wingo. Some of you must be wondering how familiar this livery is, there is a story to it. 

Continental Airlines (Merged with United Airlines to become today's United Airlines) acquired a 49% stake in which Copa adopted a livery and corporate logo similar to Continental. 

This is my photo of Continental's livery photographed in Narita Airport. 

However the U.S based airline reduced it's stake in 2006 and after Continental left Skyteam to merge with United Airlines, Copa Airlines withdrew from Skyteam alliance in 2009 to join Star Alliance in 2012. Right now, the airline is operating a full fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft as it retired the ERJ-190 not too long ago. With the airline expanding aggressively in Central American and spreading out to both North and South America, the Boeing 737 MAX 9 was chosen to be it's flagship to fly on routes up to 8 and a half hours for the airline. In addition to the MAX 9, the airline has also ordered 13 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 Boeing 737 MAX 10. This is quite obvious that the airline is a big fan of the Boeing 737 MAX model. 

The day of departure 

The 5 days I spent in Bogota was lovely, this city is worth visiting. 

Anyway, my flight was around 10.30 in the morning I took the Uber to the airport about 7. 

Last look of the city before I bid farewell to this lovely country. 

I was able to complete the online check-in without issue. 

It is nice to receive some information before departure. 

Unlike my LATAM and Avianca flights, I was able to check in at the counter without having my itinerary checked. The staff took less than 2 minutes before handing over my boarding passes and passport, I was surprised. 

For the trip reports of Copa Airlines, I will be reviewing both the old and new Business Class products. This report, I will be focusing on the airline's 737-700 J Class.   

There was no queue when I was there, so the check-in process happened quickly. After that, I made my way to the airside to check out the lounge. 

This way to the international departure hall. 

Security and passport check didn't take long. Do remember to fill up the immigration registration form for the departure (CheckMIG). It must be done before arrival and departure. The link of the website is here.

Following the signboards, I was at the entrance of the lounge. 

You can check my review of Avianca VIP lounge over here.

Look at the number of interesting traffic at this airport. 

This is Iberia's Airbus A350-900 being prepared for departure. 

There were a number of flights departing at that time. 

Spirit and Volaris are part of my list of airlines that I want to try.

There are a good number of duty-free shops at the international airside area. 

My gate was at the end of this pier. 

There were 2 Boeing 737s, -700 and -800 departing for PTY about half an hour between each other. The 737-800 departed first. 

This is the hourly-charged single room for travellers to use. 

Soon it was time to board. It was nice once again to be one of the first to board the 737-700. 

Let's go! 

My ride: HP-1376CMP (Photo: Juan Pablo MS)

Boeing 737-7V3
Transferred back from Copa Airlines Colombia in Nov 2016
Configuration: C12 Y114
Engines: 2 X CFM56-7B22
574th Boeing 737 built 
Built in Renton (RNT)
Age: 23+ years old (June 2023)

Flight route: BOG-PTY

Miles: 469

Date of departure: 7th June 
Airline: Copa Airlines
104th airline 
Flight: CM335
Route: BOG-PTY
Aircraft type: Boeing 737-700
Registration: HP-1376CMP
Seat: 3F (Business) 
Flight time: 1 hr 8 mins
Actual flight time: 1 hr 12 mins
Gate: 56 
Terminal: 1 
Load: 11/12 J Class 
Schedule departure: 1208
Boarding: 1114 
Pushed back: 1203 
Take off: 1226
Schedule arrival: 1349
Actual arrival: 1348
Departure runway: 14R
Arrival runway: 3R

My flight experience 

Once on board the aircraft, I was greeted by a male crew who checked my ticket and directed me to my seat. The interior of the cabin is underwhelming but I didn't expect much since I know the 737-700 was using the old products and the airline has no intention of retrofitting the cabin with the new ones as they were eventually be retired. When I checked the age of the aircraft, it was 23 years old! I have to say the airline has kept the aircraft in good shape. Anyway, once boarding completed, I noticed a cabin crew allowed one of the Economy passengers to place his belongings at the business class section, I thought that was nice since all the business class passengers have boarded and there was ample space for a few more bags. 

English announcements were made and the crew came to introduce himself, that was a nice touch. In this cabin, 11 seats out of 12 were occupied, guess which seat was vacant? The seat besides mine, I striked gold once again. 

After a noisy take off, we reached our assigned flight level and the crew came to distribute snacks and offer drinks for the business class passengers. Since there was no in-flight entertainment, I watch some downloaded netflix movies and then enjoy the view of Panama as the flight ended soon. 

Once we touched down, we reached the gate early and that was it. Nothing spectacular about the flight but what is special is that I am glad to have flown on this 23 years old aircraft as it may not have much life in them so the next time I visit this country, this particular aircraft or possibly the fleet of 737-700 might have been withdrawn. 

Economy Class 

The 3-3 seating configuration seats comes with a 17 inches width and about 31 inches legroom space including the emergency row. Unfortunately, no power outlet or entertainment system is installed on this aircraft type. 

At least the seats are equipped with headrest. 

There is a mobile device stand for you to place your device on it.

Business Class 

These seats are the old recliner type with a seat pitch of 38 inches and 20 inches wide. There is neither power point or entertainment system installed on this aircraft, so it's back to the golden days before the invention of IFE system. Apart from the advantages it has over the economy class seat, there is nothing impressive about this product. The airline's Boeing 737-700 was supposed to be retired but due to the Covid pandemic, the plan has changed and I think once there are enough 737 MAX 9 aircraft in the fleet, this aircraft type may be retired. 

My seat in this cabin. (Aerolopa.com)

Here are some photos of the seats 

The headrest is comfortable. 

This flight was only an hour plus but the extra legroom space is very much appreciated. 

It reminds me of the good old days of flying. 

The view of both Economy and Business class products on this aircraft. 

As you can see how much space these seats take up! 

The view from my seat. 

At least I have the window view. 

More photos of the seat 

The seat is quite comfortable. 

This was my 3rd time on this aircraft type. My previous rides on this aircraft type are Eastar Jet (South Korea) and SAS. 

Taking out the tray from the armrest. 

It is big enough for the standard size laptop to be placed on it. 

What is missing is the IFE screen, do you agree?

Overhead panel 

The drink holder, but I won't place my drink there as I fear it might dropped onto the ground.

What's inside the seat pocket? 

In-flight magazine 

Disposal Bag 

Safety Card 

The airline's network 

In-Flight snacks 

The cabin crew came with a basket of snacks and I got to choose as many as I like. I picked these 2. 

I chose apple juice to wash down these snacks. Honestly speaking, I was expecting a sandwich or something filling so this was disappointing. 

Take off to Landing (Window View)

Avianca's Airbus A320NEO without the racoon mask around the cockpit. 

We started our taxi to the runway.

This is Satena's ATR-42 aircraft. 

The taxi to the runway took quite sometime. 

Apparently a few of Viva Air's A320NEO will join the fleet of Avianca in the near future. 

Finally, we reached the runway. It took about 20 minutes from the gate to the runway. 

Off we go! 

The lovely view of Bogota 

Thanks for the memories! 

We went through a bit of turbulence while climbing.

Once we were out of the clouds, the weather was much better. 

Not a bad day for flying. 

At this point, we started our descent into Panama City. 

Touching down Central America for the first time. 

I might visit this city one day. 

That's the end of my short flight. Thanks for the ride, HP-1367CMP. 

My flight summary 

Welcome to Panama City Tocumen International Airport! 

This is terminal 1 

 To connect to the other terminal, there is a bridge connecting both terminals. This airport is one of the popular hubs in the region for travellers connecting from North America to South America.

To be continued in my next part, PTY to SCL on the airline's 737 MAX 9. Stay tuned! 

This is Copa Airlines Boeing 737-800 in the Star Alliance livery.

My rating 

Airline's website/mobile app: 3/5 
Airport staff at BOG Airport: 4/5
In-Flight Service: 4/5
In-Flight Experience: 3.5/5
Cleanliness of the cabin: 5/5
In-Flight Entertainment System: 0/5
In-Flight Snack/Meal: 2.5/5 
Punctuality: 5/5
Seat Comfort: 3.5/5
Cabin interior: 3/5 
Overall rating: 33.5/50
Percentage: 67%


The airline currently doesn't have a consistent product for the Business class as the newer aircraft, 737 MAX 9 gets the Dreams Business Class flatbed seats while for the 737 NG (-700, -800) are using the older recliner seats which is not popular among the travellers. Some of the aircraft have IFE installed on the J class but not on this aircraft. I can understand why travellers are not happy when an aircraft change happens especially for the worse product. I can't say much about the Economy Class but it looks standard with those recaro seats and for this aircraft, it doesn't have IFE system along with the Business Class. Fortunately this was a short flight and it wasn't a big deal to me but if you deploy this aircraft on longer sectors, the passengers on these flights would be disappointed. I will do an overview of this airline in my next report. 

Hope you enjoy this review.  

For Wingo's Boeing 737-800 (MDE-BOG) trip report, click here.

For the Avianca VIP lounge review, click here.

For my next trip report (Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 PTY-SCL), click here.


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