Which Airline Should I Book for My Return from Panama?

I wrote a few weeks ago about Air China’s new route between Houston and Panama City. The route intrigued me, so I booked a one way first class ticket between Dallas and Panama City, Panama. On one hand, I am ecstatic to fly on Air China’s internationally configured 777-300. On the other hand, I do not have a flight back to the United States…yet. Here are a few of my options:

  1. United Airlines 737-800

Out of the four options, this is the one that I am very familiar with. I have flown the United’s 737 variants on many different regional routes, to include last month to/from Costa Rica. I could book this ticket for 17,500 award miles in economy. Being a United Premier Platinum member, I would almost be guaranteed a complimentary upgrade to business. If I did not want to wait for an upgrade to clear, I could pay $1,300 for the one way business class fare.

United Airlines
United Airlines from Panama City to Dallas
  1. Copa Airlines 737-800

The next option is a Copa Airlines 737-800 from Panama to Guatemala. The flight is 2.5 hours which is more than enough time to experience Copa’s product. The cons to taking this flight is that I would connect to United Airline’s 737-800 for the flights to Houston and Dallas. The duration of the trip, almost 10 hours, and 3 segments, do not seem appealing to me. I could book this ticket for the same 17,500 award miles in economy, but without the chance of an upgrade.

Copa Airlines
Copa/United Airlines from Panama City to Dallas
  1. Spirit Airlines Airbus 319/320

Spirit Airlines operates the Airbus 319 from Panama to Atlanta and the Airbus 320 from Atlanta to Dallas. I have never flown Spirit, but the airline intrigues me. The ticket is $227 in economy. Being active duty military, I get the baggage fees waived. The only thing that I would have to pay for is the “Big Front Seat”, which is comparable to a regional first class seat. The con to this routing is that the trip covers 12 hours.

Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines from Panama City to Dallas

4.  Avianca Airlines ERJ-190

The last option is Avianca Airlines who, like Copa Airlines, is a Star Alliance partner. Avianca operates an ERJ-190 from Panama to El Salvador and El Salvador to Dallas. Much like Copa and Spirit, I have never flown Avianca. The ticket is priced at approximately $500 in economy…and business. YOU READ THAT RIGHT, the flight costs the same in both classes. I could earn miles which can be applied to United (as a Star Alliance member), based on distance flown. If I chose this option, I will get to review a second premium cabin without having to break the bank in doing so. It also helps that the trip is about seven hours.

Final Word

All of these options are possible, it comes down to how adventurous I want to be. Do I play it safe and come home on United? Or do I pick another option for the sake of a different review? You got it, I will definitely not choose option #1. I am looking forward to this trip, it should be a lot of fun. Stay tuned!

Featured image courtesy of Air Team Images.

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