A few weeks ago I traveled on Copa Airlines for the first time during my epic trip to Cuba. Not only did I travel Copa Airlines from Curacao (which I visited on business) to Panama City (PTY), but I also traveled roundtrip on Copa Airlines from PTY to Havana (HAV) and back.
As such, I was able to interact with Copa Airlines several times – before the trip in the process of buying my tickets (painful), dealing with Copa Airlines prior to boarding the flight to Panama in an attempt to get the Cuban tourist card, and then of course on several flights including the flight out of Havana, Cuba to Panama, which I plan to review here.
Buying the tickets was fine, until, of course, my credit card company Citibank denied the transaction on CopaAir.com, forcing my hold ticket to be canceled by Copa Airlines. I called Copa Airlines to try to reinstate the ticket and used another credit card (Chase) to ultimately complete the transaction (after warning Chase first and making sure the transaction would go through). They did reinstate the ticket, but then I got an extra charge of $53.50 ($26.75 per ticket) for processing the ticket issue over the phone. I was never informed that I would be incurring this charge, and never authorized Copa Airlines to charge this to me.
I later opened an inquiry with the airlines, called and spoke to several managers, and got the same response – that I would have to submit my complaint via the website and it would be looked at. Grudgingly, I did so, knowing full well that this would get me nowhere. My chief complaint of course was that Copa Airlines didn’t warn me of the fee, and put an unauthorized charge on my credit card. In my complaint online, I asked them to please listen to the transcript, as there was never any mention of this servicing fee or warning that I would be charged more than the cost of the ticket.
Here is the response I got:
Copa Airlines basically blew me off, so here’s what I responded with:
So I went in to my flight experiences with Copa Airlines with an already tarnished and quite negative impression of its customer service.
However, I found the in-flight service generally pleasant and had a quite different experience than I had on the phone with customer service weeks before.
Copa Airlines Flight CM437
The particular flight I’ve decided to review here is the Copa Airlines flight from Havana, Cuba to Panama City, Panama – flight CM437 (CM is the IATA code for Copa Airlines) – on September 17, 2015. The other flights I took were similarly reflective of this experience.
Here’s the details:
- Route: Havana, Cuba to Panama City, Panama
- Airline: Copa Airlines (CM)
- Departure Gate: B14
- Arrival Gate:??
- Scheduled:6:24 PM
- Actual Departure time: 6:52 PM
- Boarding time: 5:24 PM (estimate)
- Scheduled Arrival Time: 7:51 PM
- Actual Arrival Time: 7:58 PM
- Time in flight: 02h 05m
- Baggage Claim: N/A (carry-on only)
- Aircraft type: Boeing 737-800 (738)
- Distance traveled: 1051 miles
- Class: Economy (K)
- Seat: 17D (aisle seat, but I ended up sitting in the window 17F and there was nobody sitting in the middle seat – my traveling companion Dave ended up sitting in 17D)
- Load factor: 70% full (estimate)
Copa Airlines CM437 Cabin, Seat, and Service
The Copa Airlines Boeing 737-800 was about what you’d expect. There was enough space to put out overstuffed rollers in the overhead bins even though we boarded in Zone 3.
The cabin configuration was 3 by 3, but because the plane wasn’t very full, the cabin seemed more spacious than it actually was (we had an empty middle seat between us).
Each seat was equipped with an entertainment system that played a Latin American tourism loop video until takeoff. One takeoff happened, we could choose from a variety of movies (many appealing options) and TV shows.
The entertainment system also advertised relevant offers, such as signing up for the Copa Airlines credit car.
One thing we really liked about the seat, and that made it unique, was the USB power charger below the entertainment system. This was a godsend considering we were without consistent charging in Cuba for 5 days and were ready to get back on the grid and powered up. Thanks Copa Airlines!
Throughout the various Copa Airlines flights I took on this trip to Cuba (and back), I had the best meal service on CM437. Some of the other trips consisted of a bad (dry) chicken sandwich, but this one actually served us a hot meal. I had registered in advance to receive a special meal (the fruit plate), and unlike the previous flight to HAV, the crew actually noticed this special request and honored it. I accompanied this very healthy and delicious meal with a bag of Doritos, because you know, I’m not perfect. Also, Doritos are awesome.
Drinks were complimentary, including alcoholic beverages.
Service was prompt and courteous, and again I was pleased that the crew honored my request of a special meal (which they had forgotten on the flight from PTY to HAV).
All told it was a pleasant in-flight experience, not amazing, not horrible, but average. Considering the price I paid, I might have expected slightly more – such as an extra snack service after the main meal, or a trolley of newspaper and magazines for our reading pleasure. That said, we still got a better in-flight experience for a similarly priced domestic U.S. ticket on a mainline carrier (United, American, etc.).
So all told, here’s the letter grades I give Copa Airlines:
Ticket buying experience – D: Hidden fees you are not told about await you when calling customer service to finish a ticket order.
Pre-Flight experience – C+: I had a little too much hassle trying to get the Cuban tourist card through Copa Airlines. I could have just picked it up at the PTY information desk no questions asked.
In-Flight experience – B+: Pleasant experience with above average meal service for a short flight, in-seat entertainment system with lots of movies, and a USB charger on the entertainment console.
This probably rounds out to a C+, which is driven by the horrible experience I had with Copa Airlines customer service while trying to buy my tickets. My advice to Copa Airlines – if you can make the customer experience better before and after the flight, you are well on your way to winning more of my business. But as it stands now, I have a sour taste in my mouth for being overcharged and feeling like I was taken advantage of.