Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Copa Airlines' New and Improved Clase Ejecutiva

The new look 737-800 seats.

Over the past year, I've had a number of opportunities to fly business class (Clase Ejecutiva) aboard Copa Airlines (the national airline of Panama which connects the Americas via its hub in Panama City).

And for comparison purposes, I've done so on all three models of aircraft they operate (Boeing 737-700, 737-800, Embraer 190). Regardless of which plane I've been on, I've received top notch service.

But yesterday, I made a pleasant discovery – Copa has been upgrading the business class cabins aboard their newest 737-800 jets.

Plenty of space, blankets, and personal TVs.
New and Improved!

These jets already have Boeing's new futuristic Sky Interior look, making them a favorite of mine. But now, the airline has made the Clase Ejecutiva service even better on these jets.

To begin with, the old drop-down TV monitors are gone, replaced by personal TV screens that fold out of the middle console. No more having to watch the one movie everyone else has to watch. Copa's new audio-video options include a handful of comedies (including two of my favorites, Big Bang Theory and Modern Family), dramas, movies, documentaries, music, and video games.

The other big improvement is the seats themselves. While Clase Ejecutiva seats on their other jets are certainly larger and more comfortable than the standard economy seats, these new seats are a step above those on the other jets in the Copa family. They feature a legrest/footrest, and they recline considerably more than the older style seats. There are four comfort control levers to make adjustments to your seat.

With the added recline, I noticed that there also seems to be greater seat pitch (the space between your seat and the seat in front of you). Even when the passenger in front of me reclined his seat fully, I was still left with plenty of space in which to get up and out of my seat.

Also, I found that the new tray tables have greater stability, thanks to a slight ridge they rest on in the middle console. A minor, but good improvement.

Also noteworthy is the addition of electrical outlets and USB slots for your personal electronics.

The Rest

Beyond these improvements, if you're flying Clase Ejecutiva with Copa, you'll be treated to an excellent level of service regardless of the plane you happen to be on.

It starts when you board the plane, and your flight attendant offers to take your coat. Soon after – and still during the boarding process – they'll be by to offer you water or juice.

The always delicious salmon.
And before you know it, they'll return to explain your meal options. First, you're offered a drink and a bowl of hot nuts. Next, your meal service will typically begin with a salad, a starter item, and bread (and another drink). Then, you generally have two choices for your main course. My personal favorite thus far has been the salmon and rice, though I've been pleased with all the choices I've received.

In fact, only once have I received something that caused me to wonder, “What is it?” It was a starter item that appeared to be a large, strange, alien-like blob, with a rubbery texture. (Which I poked at it with my fork, took photographic evidence, and subsequently filed a report with the National UFO Reporting Center.)

Hot nuts (bottom left), and the alien-like food (right).
Based on a bit of investigation, I determined that it was some sort of gigantic mushroom. Whether it was of this planet or not, I was not going to ingest it. But the mystery alien mushroom was the only exception for me, and really, the airline does offer very good food choices in Clase Ejecutiva.

Desert generally brings a choice of cake or ice cream. If you choose ice cream, you can get it topped with strawberry, caramel, or chocolate syrup, and almonds. I also once received cheesecake. If they have that, go for it – it's smaller than Cheesecake Factory size, but of equal delicious quality.

Oh yes, and that's real china you're getting your food on. Drinks (you name it, you got it) are served in real glasses. And that after dinner coffee will also be served in a real cup, not plastic.

(And speaking of drinks, at this point, I feel the need to put in a plug for the 12-year old Ron Abuelo rum. It's the national brand of Panama, and it's highly recommended. Kudos to Copa for making it available in their bar service.)


Those are the basics of Clase Ejecutiva service on board Copa. Of course, you'll also get a pillow and a blanket, priority boarding, and your flight attendants will address you by name – a nice touch.

But even before you do get on board the plane, remember, as a Clase Ejecutiva customer, you're entitled to visit the VIP lounge. If you're in Panama City, Guatemala City, or Santo Domingo, you've got a Copa Club lounge. Elsewhere, it'll be a United Club lounge or a partner lounge where neither United nor Copa have their own facilities (like in Mexico City, where you'll have access to the Aeromexico Salon Premier).

So if you've got the chance to fly executive class with Copa Airlines, that's what you can expect.  And if you happen to get on board one of the new 737-800 Next Generation jets, it's a bonus experience.


  1. As I told you recently, one of the best American airlines on the continent. First class service no matter where you sit.

    My last experience was a trip to Lima at night. I was in economy but you would have thought it was first class. Since most people were asleep, they catered to me the rest of the flight.

    I love, love, love Copa Airlines. Great report and pics. Thanks Darren.

  2. Very true - their service is very good, regardless of which section of the plane you're in. Complimentary drinks, food ... all included.

    And aside from that, I'm impressed with how they run their Panama City hub. Flights are so well scheduled in different banks that you never have to have much of a layover at all. And in fact, I consider Tocumen Airport to be the best airport for making connections, because you never pass through immigration and customs, unless you're actually going to stay in the country. Just get off your plane, and walk to the next gate, which is generally a five minute or less walk. Simple!

  3. This is certainly a great improvement by COPA. I think I might try them in J next time I fly CM. I've only flown them in Y because I wary about the service on board narrow body jets.

    How would you rate CM in J to AV's product/service?

  4. Haven't had the chance to try out Avianca's J class product yet, though am looking for the chance to do so in the near future, on my next MEX-BOG trip. (And I'm also eager to check out the new terminal in BOG.)

  5. Wow, great report. I always liked travel reports because it is better than other experimental reports.Thanks for such a post. I will keep visiting your site once a week. :)
    Discount Business Class Flights

  6. I love reading about airplanes and flights :) I am thinking of booking my next holiday as I feel too tired. I also prefer to fly with airlines which provide a meal, but if looking for the cheapest option, a meal in most of the cases will not be provided.

  7. Thank you for such a thorough description! I'll be flying Copa Business class in the summer and was pleasantly surprised by your article. Much appreciated!!!