What’s the definition of “luxury” when you’ve been traveling for 8, 12, 16 hours already and you’re facing a long layover at an airport? Your hierarchy of needs probably has a whole different list of items than it will when you’ve finally gotten to where you’re going.
For me, I’d been on the move since the afternoon before when I arrived at the Copa Club Lounge in Panama City, Panama late in the morning. So there was one amenity here that really got me excited: a hot shower. You tell the front desk you want to use the men’s or women’s shower and they open it up for you. Once inside, you’ve got a space to yourself that’s like a hotel room bathroom, with a toilet, sink, and shower filled with toiletries. I went in feeling like a sweaty unshaven bum. I came out feeling like a man ready to take on the world. How much is that worth to you?
If you’re flying business class on Copa Airlines, have Gold status with them or via a Star Alliance partner, or already have access to United Club lounges it won’t cost you anything. Otherwise you’ll need to pay $50 for a day pass to use the facilities. Or, after a while when they were absent, this is now part of the Priority Pass program, along with another lounge here called Tocumen Royal Saloon.
Once you’re in, you get a place to relax, Wi-Fi access, drinks from the bar, and snacks. (You can’t order a full meal here though, so you’ll need to do that before or after the lounge visit.) There are magazines to read, computers to use, and a family area that has things for the kids to play with—including a Wii U console. One room has a giant TV to watch.
If this all sounds like the last United lounge you’ve been to, you’re right. It’ll all feel eerily familiar when you’re there. This Copa Club lounge even has the same wasteful piles of plastic from shrink-wrapped processed cheese and little individual cracker packets. Copa and Continental were once tied together financially before the United merger and the former still seems to take its cues from the partner, on the plane and off. You get a little better drink selection here though than in your typical United lounge.
This is Copa’s largest lounge, with more than 10,000 square feet and a capacity of close to 250 people. Whether that seems like enough or not depends on when you arrive. When I got there the place was packed. By 1:00 in the afternoon when I took the photos here, it was almost empty, Then a couple hours later it filled up again.
Overall this is a great retreat to relax in where the airport is more like an outlet mall than an international travelers’ hub. Once you’ve explored the limited options in the fast food court and looked at the same five duty free shops that keep appearing in different parts of the terminal, there’s not much that’s going to hold your interest. You might as well hit the lounge and get some work done or read a book in comfort.
See more on all the Copa Airlines lounges here, including their newest one in Medellin. Business class flights are often available without a massive premium, so check rates before traveling at the Copa website. If none of those are an option, buy your way in with a Priority Pass membership.