Air transport in Panama more extensive than you may expect
Air transport in Panama might be assumed to be somewhat primitive, unless you have been here. After all, in most places, Panama is considered a third-world country.
In many ways, it is. It is still growing, still developing. There are a large number of poor people. The general population has a long way to go to attain North American living standards, not that this is always a benefit.
A third-world country, you say?
But you would be forgiven if, at Tocumen International Airport just outside Panama City, you doubted the third-world label. Take the 9 p.m. flight to New York, for example. As you sit waiting the ramp, you look out of the window of the comfortable Boeing 737 and, at each of the ramp's multiple spokes sits another 737, each bearing the logo of the national airline, Copa.
One after the other, the aircraft leave the ramp in procession, headed for the runway and takeoff. It hits you: Panama has a world-class airline providing first-rate service.
World-class international airport
The airport is world-class, too, having just undergone a major expansion and renovation. No Mickey Mouse, uncomfortable shack here, as there is in some developing countries. This airport is more striking, larger and has more facilities than the majority of airports in North America.
Copa was founded in 1947, and now provides about 80 flights a day to 30 countries in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. It does not yet fly into Canada, though there is a rumor that Toronto is planned. That will be a great relief to the many Canadians living here.
Travel easy from large cities
Continental, Delta and American Airlines all fly into Tocumen, as well as Jamaican Airlines. I'm sure there are others. With Panama considered a hub, travel here is easy from larger cities.
Surprisingly, no American discount airlines fly here, but Royal flies from both Montreal and Toronto carrying 300 passengers a week from each city bound for The Royal Decameron Resort on Panama's Pacific Coast (see Decameron).
Panama City has two airports, the other, Albrook, closer to the heart of the city and used for internal flights. These flights serve such communities as David, Bocas del Toro, Chitre and more than 20 other smaller communities. Chief among the local airlines is Aeroperlas, with a fleet of aircraft each capable of carrying from 20 to 50 passengers.
Many strips for private fliers
The smaller airfields also serve private aircraft, as do a number of other strips throughout the country. There is a major airstrip, for example, in Volcan that can handle fairly large private aircraft, including the presidential jet.
There are special discounts for women over the age of 57, for men over the age of 62, and for all retirees or people with pensions, regardless of age. Of course, this applies to ex-pat pensionados of any age. The discount is a healthy 25%.