Airline: Copa Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 (738)
Flight #: CM 133
Route: Sint Maarten (SXM) to Panama City, Panama (PTY)
Date: November 17th, 2019
Departure Time: 12:30pm
Arrival Time: 2:45pm
Duration: 3 hours and 15 minutes
Cabin: Business Class
Seats: 2A, 2B
Miles Used: 30K United miles each
Taxes & Fees: $5.60 each
Typical Cost to Purchase: $1,500 (SXM-PTY-LAX)
Value: 5 cents/mile
While Copa Airlines isn’t the flashiest, and doesn’t feature a true first-class cabin, their business class product is solid all around and their hub in Panama makes it a convenient option for traveling to the Caribbean or South America.
Keep in mind though some short haul Copa aircraft (like this one) don’t have charging outlets or IFE screens. Our flight right after this one was a 7 hour long haul flight from Panama City to Las Vegas, and that flight had much nicer seats as well as individual IFE screens and charging outlets.
How We Booked Business Class Sint Maarten to Las Vegas
This was the first leg of our two leg trip home from the Caribbean. We visited several islands including Martinique, St. Barth, Saba and Sint Maarten! Each island is stunning in it’s own way, but St. Barth stole our hearts.
Of course, Saba and Sint Maarten were beautiful as well 😊
We used a total of 30K United miles each to travel from Sint Maarten to Las Vegas (with a connection in Panama City). We had the option of doing an overnight layover in Panama, but we had spent one night there last year and saw the Panama Canal so we decided to pass on that opportunity. Always keep in mind on international award flights, connections <24 hours usually don’t break up into separate award flights. That makes for great opportunities to visit new cities.
It can be difficult to travel to the Caribbean on points and miles, especially in business class. The trick is to be flexible on both dates AND routings. Also keep in mind only certain islands in the Caribbean have airports that offer direct flights to and from the United States
Remember most Copa flights don’t feature lie-flat seat. You will get something that looks like domestic first class within the United States.
This flight was a 3 hour short haul flight, so even though this was a 738 aircraft, it was less equipped than long haul
Check In at Sint Maarten Airport (SXM)
The Sint Maarten Princess Juliana International Airport is unfortunately still struggling after hurricane Irma 2 years ago. The makeshift airport is small, and feels underdeveloped with plywood walls. It is difficult to find a charging port and there are no longer any airport lounges. Additionally, all boarding is done on the tarmac, so passengers have to get shuttled to and from the airplane.
I had spoken to some of the native islanders who are frustrated that the airport construction has stalled. They felt the beautiful airport was a symbol of their island as it’s the first thing visitors see when the arrive, but no longer. Most think it’s due to the corruption in the government, but it is sad to see one of the most famous airports in the world in such disarray.
Boarding Copa Airlines 738
Boarding was not smooth and was actually a little frustrating. Usually business class passengers board first, and it’s a calming experience to relax in your seat and have a pre departure drink while others are boarding.
In this case business class passengers boarded first, but we were only able to get on the shuttle. In most cases when boarding is done on the tarmac, the shuttle takes the business class passengers to the plane first and then returns to take the economy passengers.
However, this time, we waited for every passenger to board the shuttle before leaving. It took about an extra 10 minutes waiting on the shuttle before we left. Then since business passengers boarded first, we were now in the back of the line, so it took an extra 15 minutes waiting on the shuttle again to board.
Some might argue that it saves time to only do one shuttle, but that doesn’t make sense as boarding didn’t actually start until the entire shuttle was loaded and arrived at the airplane (took an extra 10 minutes). The bottle neck in the process is boarding the aircraft, not loading up the shuttle (for the record it was a 3 minute shuttle to the airplane).
Anyway this is just something to keep in mind if you are boarding at the Sint Maarten Airport.
Business Class Cabin Copa Airlines 738
The current business class cabin on most Copa aircraft features 16 recliner seats in a 2-2 configuration over four rows.
Copa 737-8 Business Class Seat
Each business class seat has 38 inches of pitch and 21 inches of width. They are reclining seats similar to most domestic first-class seats in the United States.
The center armrest housed a small beverage stand and the controls for the headphones. There were no individual seat controls (you find those on the long haul Boeing 738 Copa aircraft), just one button to recline the seat.
The tray table extended from the outer armrest
There was one small IFE screen on each side of the plane, to be honest we were in row 1 and it was barely large enough to see anything. Once the predeparture safety video started playing, we brought out our tablets.
There were individual air nozzles
Food & Beverage Copa Business Class
The only predeparture beverages were water or orange juice.
About 30 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants brought around champagne and a warm snack mix.
The flight attendants then came around to take our orders. There were no menus handed out, the flight attendants just came up and asked what we wanted.
Jess ordered the salmon and risotto, while I had the breaded chicken and mashed potatoes. The food was actually pretty good despite the all around lacking of the hard product.
Unfortunately because it was a short haul flight there was none of the signature Copa sundae to be had ☹ (This was from our previous Copa flight last year)
Our overall experience was less than stellar on this flight. The boarding process was unorganized and actually seemed to punish business class passengers for getting on the shuttle first. The hard product was dated without individual IFE screens, outlets, seat controls or even menus!
Despite these shortcomings, Copa Airlines remains a mainstay for those attempting to travel to the Caribbean or South America using United Airlines or Star Alliance Members points.