After Judd and his wife dropped me at the airport, they were also kind enough to wait while I checked in to made sure there was no drama…which of course there was. A “VIP” decided they wanted my pre-selected seat, so it had been given away. I was having absolutely none of this, and made it known…and did get my seats back. Said our goodbyes, I changed a little bit of leftover security, and headed for the gate area.
I had been warned there was no lounge in the international terminal, so made a point not to arrive too early to the airport. By the time I’d cleared immigration and the painfully slow security checkpoint it was only about 30 minutes until boarding. There was a fairly nice waiting area filled with outlets for charging phones/etc so that was nice. There was also a small, but decent variety of places to eat and shop. Overall not bad for a smaller airport. We boarded about 20 minutes late, and only about 15 minutes before scheduled departure which was worrisome, since I had barely 40 minutes to connect in Panama.
COPA Airlines flight 646 operated by COPA Airlines Colombia aka Aero Republica
Medellin, Colombia (MDE) to Panama City, Panama (PTY)
Depart 13:22, Arrive 14:38, Flight Time 1:16
Embraer ERJ-190, Registration HP-1562CMP, Manufactured 2007, Seat 2A
Even more shocking for a short flight once we were airborn, there was not just a meal on this flight with a flight time of 52 minutes, there was a choice of meals! I went with the chicken. It was decently tasty. One thing I remembered on this flight, COPA always makes a point to turn the glasses to face you when they serve, so you can read the writing. Small touch, but adds a tiny bit of class!
I asked for a second glass of wine after the meal, but it was too close to landing…but that wasn’t a problem. They just served it United-style!
Landed in Panama right on time, and of course with a short-ish connection the flight was clear across the airport, about a 15 minute walk away. Wouldn’t have been too much of a problem, except even with the air conditioning it was hot. And with the humidex it felt downright nasty:
We boarded right at scheduled departure time, so there was really no reason I had to rush. I was only slightly concerned, because in my experience COPA is incredibly punctual, and even though it’s a small airport I figured they would almost certainly be on time.
COPA Airlines flight 159
Panama City, Panama (PTY) to Quito, Ecuador (UIO)
Depart 15:24, Arrive 17:20, Flight Time 1:56
Boeing 737-800, Registration HP-1531CMP, Manufactured 2006, Seat 2B
Boarding took…forever. Business was supposed to be full, but it appeared there were only 4 seats taken in total. How odd. Boarding was delayed because there was a group of 50+ American teenagers and their chaperones going to do some sort of missionary work in Ecuador. Packing away their giant backpacks, guitars, combined with the typical inefficiency of boarding planes for Americans, meant we finally left the gate about 30 minutes late. Would have only been 20, except we waited another 10 for the remaining six business class passengers who were all connecting from the same delayed flight. Turned out I really didn’t need to worry!
First things, up in the air, immigration forms were handed out. Straightforward, but I wasn’t sure what the “date of bird” was? Is this like a Chinese Zodiac thing? ;)
Once again, there were two choices. I don’t remember the other one, but it sounded unappetizing, so I went with the generic “salmon” which turned out to be a salmon bagel. It was quite mediocre:
Once again, however, the glasses were turned properly!
Landed in Quito just over 30 minutes late, and had a relatively short walk to immigration. The line was nearly an hour long, and I ended up chatting up a mid-50s Canadian couple from Regina (who made sure to inform me how to pronounce the city…yes, yes, I’m not an ignorant American) who were on their second trip to Ecuador. They’d gotten bad altitude sickness the first time, and had to abandon the trip and head home rather than go to the Galapagos. Up until this point, I hadn’t realized that Quito is still at approximately 10,000 feet above sea level. Coming from Bolivia it felt absolutely wonderful to be able to breathe easily again!
Rather chatting immigration agent, but soon I was through and in a taxi to the hotel in a torrential downpour….which took nearly two hours since it was rush hour. Oh well, that’s one way to get a brief preview of the city I suppose!