Dec 132011

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to split this trip report up in a more thematic fashion instead of doing it chronologically.  It was a long trip, so I suspect the day by day could put some people to sleep of boredom!  Right, on to the flights!

I’d initially booked United non-stop in both directions to Buenos Aires, but when the travel folks came up with an option that was 1/3 the fare on COPA…I couldn’t say no out of corporate responsibility.  Plus, it still earned miles/EQM with United Continental so I couldn’t really complain.  Best part of all, but splitting things wisely I could completely avoid redeyes which I attempt to avoid whenever possible.  I sleep well on planes…but why should you if you don’t have to!

Once I agreed to the COPA fare, travel attempted to wisely book me with a 10-11 hour layover on the outbound in Panama and a 737 redeye to Buenos Aires.  Oh H-to-the-E-L-L no!  If I’m taking the low-cost option to save money, I’m going to at least overnight in Panama and take two back-to-back daytime flights that I can work on and be well-rested when I arrive.  The approving authorities on-board, it was booked, and off we go.

Arrived at Dulles, and this is where mild trouble began.  Checked in and checked bags no worries, and then asked which lounge they used since they’re in the A/B terminal where United/Continental isn’t.  “um, the only lounge is United in the other terminal – you can’t have everything when you get a free upgrade!”  Excuse me, this is a paid business fare…”Oh, well, you can go to the other terminal if you want a lounge.  I’m sure United will let you in.”  Major customer service fail, but felt like the United I know.  Assume all your passengers are upgraders so you don’t have to provide much service.  Bummer.  I killed time at my second home (aka Starbucks) instead, and boarded more or less on time.

COPA Airlines flight 357
Washington Dulles (IAD) to Panama City, Panama (PTY)
Depart 9:32, Arrive 14:22, Flight Time 4:50
Seat 3E
Registration HP-1713CMP, Manufactured 2010

This was a completely full flight, and boarding was completely surprisingly quickly.  My expectations were low (remember, low cost option involving 6,000 miles one-way on 737s) and thus I was pleasantly surprised.  I don’t really remember much of the lunch on this flight – which is to say it was neither good nor bad.  Entertained myself by doing prep work on the laptop, and everything was pretty solid if unremarkable.  Sometimes, that’s the best kind of flight….until you get to baggage claim and only one of your two bags arrives.  Of course, the other one shows that it arrived…but no sign of it.  Someone else likely walked off with it.  Grrrrrrreat!

COPA Airlines flight 279
Panama City, Panama (PTY) to Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE)
Depart 11:06, Arrive 20:16, Flight Time 7:10
Seat 2E
Registration HP-1713CMP, Manufactured 2010

After a good lay-in it was time to head back to PTY for the onward flight to Argentina.  Check-in was pretty swift, bags re-checked, and PTY security was quick as usual.  Only note – they don’t permit scissors with small blades like the TSA does.  Just an FYI…  we boarded the flight…and then waited.  Seemed the volcano in Chile was acting up, and since this flight was at the very very edge of the 737 range they opted to wait to ensure we wouldn’t divert somewhere embarrassing.  Then, they took 6 folks off for weight limitations.  Then another 12.  Then another 14….then 22.  All in all, they removed nearly 50 passengers (and most luggage) from the flight and we eventually left two hours late.  Not the best start to this trip!

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