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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. 😉
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 membership. 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:
- The Citi Prestige® Card comes with a Priority Pass membership, and you can take two guests or immediate family members for free
- The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN also come with a Priority Pass membership, and you can take two guests for free
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.
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.
The lounge is located one level up from the concourse, so we took the elevator up.
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.
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.
Next to that was a room with some dining tables.
And then there was also a TV room with some comfortable lounging chairs.
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.
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.
I was also happy to see big canisters with coffee, rather than those nasty coffee and espresso machines which some lounges have.
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 wifi 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. 😉