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Review: Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 Business Class Panama City to Cancún

Flight Number
CM326
Aircraft
Boeing 737 MAX 9
Duration
2 hours 39 minutes
Date
March 2022
Rating

En route back home from Colombia, I flew on a short three-hour flight from Panama City to Cancún with Copa Airlines onboard their new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft, which is Copa’s first aircraft to feature lie-flat beds in business class.

In This Post

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 Business Class – Booking

The Copa Airlines fleet consists of relatively young and modern aircraft, with 26 Boeing 737-800s and 13 Boeing 737 MAX 9s. 

Along with onboarding the newer-generation MAX aircraft, Copa Airlines also introduced a new lie-flat business class seat on this plane, which looked to be notably superior to the recliner seats on the Boeing 737-800.

I had flown Copa Airlines business class on the old Boeing 737s a few years ago, and I was looking forward to experiencing the lie-flat MAX seats, as these will surely provide travellers with much greater comfort when flying to, from, and through the airline’s Panama City hub going forward. 

I booked the overall journey using 50,000 Aeroplan points as a one-way itinerary in business class from South America to North America: Cartagena–Panama City–Cancún–Vancouver.

My first flight to Panama City was on a narrowbody turboprop jet, and then I took this flight from Panama City to Cancún on the Boeing 737 MAX 9. Lastly, Cancún to Vancouver was on Air Canada’s Signature Class. 

There certainly aren’t many great options for flying from South America up to the West Coast, and this was one of the only itineraries that worked for my needs, despite having multiple stops along the way.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 Business Class – Cabin

Boarding took place in Terminal 2, the newer part of Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport, which began construction in 2013 and has seen the first of the three phases of renovations completed.

Renovations will continue and eventually increase the airport’s capacity from 5.8 million to 15 million passengers by 2022.

Panama City Tocumen International Airport
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Boarding gate

I was amongst the first to board, and I found myself in this visually impressive 16-seat business class cabin that looked pretty comfortable for a narrowbody jet.

The business class cabin has a sleek look, with grey seat shells and the blue Copa Airlines brand colours incorporated into the seats and details. 

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Cabin
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Cabin

The business class seats are forward-facing and spread across four rows in a 2–2 configuration. Not every seat has direct aisle access; however, if you’re travelling as a couple, this seating arrangement works pretty well as you can select two seats side by side. 

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Cabin
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Cabin

For solo travellers, as there is no direct aisle access from the window seats, it’s a matter of whether you’d prefer a window or aisle seat, as well as strategically picking a seat that appears to have no other passenger next to you if possible. 

That’s exactly what I did, assigning myself Seat 4A in the fourth row with a vacant neighbouring seat.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Aisle seat
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Seat 4A

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 Business Class – Seat

The seat type chosen for Copa’s 737 MAX 9 is pretty standard, and you’ll find it on many other business class products around the world. In fact, it’s virtually identical to the Air China business class seat I had flown a few years ago.

There’s an entertainment screen in front of you and a thin storage rack just underneath the screen.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Entertainment screen
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Storage rack & footwell

Another small, open-air storage nook can be found near your shoulders at the back of the seat with a drink holder. The power outlet, USB outlet, and headphone jack are also in the area.

The armrest on the side by the window can also be lowered for additional comfort.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Drink holder, outlets, and headphone jack

The seat console between the two seats is where you’ll find a surface space and the seat controls. 

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Seat console
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Seat controls

Just below on the side of the console are the entertainment controller and a small literature pocket.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Entertainment controller & literature pocket

The tray table pops out of its holder and folds over into its full size. 

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Tray table
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Tray table

Overall, the seat is quite comfortable; the only gripe I have is with the tiny and very narrow footwell, especially in the seat by the windows.

This might not be a problem, given that you might not be getting a full night’s sleep on these planes, but it’s very narrow nonetheless and limits the overall comfort in lie-flat mode. 

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Legroom in footwell

While the overall business class seat is ultimately a fairly run-of-the-mill seat type in the grand scheme of things, it’s certainly a significant improvement for Copa Airlines compared to their old recliner seats on the Boeing 737s.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – View

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 Business Class – Entertainment

The built-in in-flight entertainment (IFE) system is equipped with movies, TV shows, music, games, moving maps, and connecting gate information. Entertainment is available in Spanish, English, and Portuguese channels.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Entertainment screen

The IFE can be controlled by touching the screen directly or via a handset, and is highly responsive to your touch. 

This is another improvement from the screens found in the older Boeing 737 models, which popped out of your seat from the console and had to be swivelled into position. These were clunky and slow, so the new setup is much better.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Airshow en route to Cancún

The airline also has a Copa Showpass feature, which offers streaming videos and music from personal devices, but no Wi-Fi on board.

However, the movie and TV selection is still quite limited, with fewer than 30 movies available in the entertainment system. That’s certainly something to be aware of if you’re someone who prefers to have a large selection of titles to choose from to keep you

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Movie menu
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – TV menu

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 Business Class – Snack Service

Only a light snack service was provided on this flight, given that the flight time was only three hours.

A meal would’ve only been provided on longer flights, such as those to North America. Indeed, on the way down to Colombia, I flew Copa Airlines business class from Chicago, and there was a decent full meal onboard that flight. 

I certainly wish that Copa had offered something more fulsome on this flight to Cancún, but there were only packaged snacks available, like pretzels and biscuits. I was also offered my choice of beverage, and I opted for a black tea.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Packaged snacks
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Black tea

Additionally, Copa Airlines only offers amenity kits in business class on flights over six hours, so one wasn’t provided on this flight.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 Business Class – Bed

The main attraction of this product is the 180-degree seat recline. The bed is not the widest, but it’s better to have a lie-flat option than not, especially on longer-haul flights from North America to South America via Panama City.

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Bed
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Bed

As mentioned, the footwell is relatively narrow, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem given that you’re more likely to be napping than sleeping onboard these flights.

Copa Airlines does operate a few overnight routes that depart at night and arrive in the morning, in which case the narrow footwell may make things a bit uncomfortable – but again, certainly more comfortable than not having a lie-flat bed.

An extra set of buttons was revealed after putting the seat into the lie-flat mode, allowing you to more easily access the seat controls while lying down. 

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Seat controls

After a very brief period of rest onboard this three-hour journey across the Caribbean Sea, we made a smooth landing in Cancún, and I continued onward to my connecting flight back to Vancouver. 

Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Views on approach to Cancún
Copa Airlines 737 MAX 9 business class – Airshow en route to Cancún

Conclusion

This short flight with Copa Airlines was a more pleasant experience than my previous flights with the Panamanian flag carrier, largely thanks to the introduction of lie-flat business class seats on the Boeing 737 MAX 9, which marks a huge improvement over the airline’s older 737-800 business class seat. 

While nowhere near cutting-edge, Copa’s new seats provide enough comfort for the short- and medium-haul routes that it operates. The only slight downsides would be if you were on an overnight flight and needed some rest, as the narrow footwells may be bothersome.

As Copa is a popular airline for flying to and from various places in Latin America, I’m pleased to see that these lie-flat business class seats are now available, and I look forward to sitting in this cabin again on future hops around the region.

3 Comments
  1. Paolo

    According to the writer, he took a turboprop flight from Cartagena to PTY. I believe the Copa Boeing 737 is not a turbo prop! Copa doesn’t fly turbo props.

  2. Mike

    For a 3h flight in a premium cabin, no meal and just packaged snacks screams cheapness.

    1. David

      Back in 2019 before COVID hit, wife and I flew from Montreal to Aruba with an overnight stopover in Panama City for $400 return. I was hesitant to fly as I was not familiar with the airline but chose it because I’ve always wanted to visit Panama and the price was right.

      Well I was actually pleasantly surprised. Aircraft was modern, the service was excellent – everyone super friendly. Free alcohol and a free full meal on the way down – something not offered by other carriers in economy – so rather than cheap I actually felt well treated. I see your point about business class though.

      That brings me to my final point. For the 2 hour leg of the trip from Panama to Aruba we applied for business class upgrade which was accepted at I think it was $90 per person. Pretty good deal.

      Based on past experience it was excellent value for money and they are part of star alliance so my aeroplan points got a boost. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again and nice to see some upgraded products from them.

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