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.
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.
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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
The seat console between the two seats is where you’ll find a surface space and the seat controls.
Just below on the side of the console are the entertainment controller and a small literature pocket.
The tray table pops out of its holder and folds over into its full size.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.