2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage


My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I returned this week, after three weeks of an enjoyable visit in the states and a very nice Thanksgiving with family and friends in the Chicago area. 
Today’s post is about my flight on Copa Airlines:

In the past, I have always flown American Airlines from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to either Quito or Guayaquil.  However, American Airlines is now in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, which requires a financial restructuring both within the airlines and with vendors, and generally concessions from workers.  The repercussions of yet another economic dislocation in the United States included the threat of strike about the time I explored purchasing my flight tickets; and with numerous media reports on how the union workers were deliberately, and in my opinion, self-defeatingly causing slow-downs and delays in flight arrivals; I decided to explore other flight possibilities.  In the past, I never had any problems with American Airlines.  Compared to Delta, which in my opinion has been the worst airline, American was a pleasure to travel.

However, I had a few expat friends suggest to me that Copa was a fine airline and much more reasonably priced than most airlines.  Sure enough after checking on the Internet, I discovered I could get a round trip flight from Quito to Chicago on Copa with a $400 savings over American Airlines. Further, there was no charge for the first two cargo bags.  American had charged me twenty-five dollars for each of my first two cargo bags when I last traveled to Chicago in May of this year.  Since then, American has changed its policy.  The airline does not now charge for the first piece of cargo luggage, but will charge seventy dollars for the second piece of luggage.  If someone like me generally takes two pieces of cargo luggage, then I am paying a twenty dollar increase in cargo luggage fare with American than I did during my previous flight with them last May.

Copa also had a two-hour layover in Panama City’s Airport, and only a one-hour layover on the return flight from Chicago to Quito.  I very much liked the Panama Airport, as opposed to the Miami Airport, which usually involved longer flight layovers due to customs, and is extremely large in which to get around.  Miami added a train system in the airport about two years ago, but the last two times I flew into the Miami Airport, the system was down each time.  The actual flight time from Quito to Chicago via Panama City also was more geographically beneficial to me and lessened the total flight time.

Copa airplanes were equally as nice as American’s.  The service and amenities aboard Copa were of a higher quality.  If one wanted to listen to music or watch a movie, Copa flight attendants distributed the audio head-phones.  On American, one has to bring their own set from a previous flight or pay for a set of head-phones.  On the American flight, the short part of the trip to one’s stop-over would find the traveler provided with a small bag of pretzels and something to drink.  The Copa Airline attendants provided a choice between a chicken or beef sandwich serve on elongated buns, a bag of chips, four wrapped Oreo cookies, and a drink.  Both airlines served dinner on the longer portion of the flight.  I found the attendants on Copa to be more professional, dressed classier in their uniforms, and young and attractive, the way flight attendants use to be in the United States. 
Since my first entry into the United States did not take place until I arrived in Chicago.  I did not have to allow the additional time it would take to go through my port of entry in Miami or Houston.  I also found that with Copa, once I went through immigration at O’Hare, I was able to step right out to curb service at the airport.  Prior arrivals at O’Hare meant very prolonged walks to the baggage area, and then long walks to the bus terminal.
On my return flight, each passenger had the screen on the back of the seat in front of them, which is a new feature many airlines are incorporating.  Unfortunately, not everybody’s screen was working.  This malfunction was the only negative with Copa for me, although I had no interest in watching the movie or other programming anyway.  I did notice that Etapa was their Internet connection server.  Considering Etapa’s reputation in Cuenca for terrible service and serious speed and connectivity problems, I would only suggest that at Copa’s first opportunity officials will find a better Internet company with which to do business.

I would strongly recommend Copa to fellow travelers.  Of course, whether or not Copa is right for you will depend upon your particular travel needs, and whether Copa services air terminals close to your location, provides the necessary connections, and/or access to your final destinations.  I never heard of Copa until I came to Ecuador.  No one I talked to back in the states was familiar with the airline.  It does have a surprisingly large number of flight routes, although they basically serve between South America and North America, as well as flights to Spain.  If Copa meets your travel needs, you're not likely to be disappointed.


  1. Jim,

    We all know that air fares sometime are a complete mystery. So, after reading your article today, decided to compare my already booked flights on AA (GYE-LAX-GYE) with COPA.

    Cheap Tickets.com has Business/First on American next spring at $762 and COPA at $1339. Go figure!

  2. Terry, I have found where ticket prices change the same day or the next day. I was always told to buy my tickets at least a month before travel for the best deals. Yet I know of incidences where the prices were less expensive during the two week period before travel. I guess in part it depends on how quickly flights are filling. If some scheduled flights are scarcely filling for whatever reason, then flight costs may be reduced the last week or two before the flight to fill up the plane. Supposedly, there has been a curtailment of many flights by the airlines as fuel costs have gone up, and the total flights are running at about 80% capacity, which I assume would reduce competitive bidding among the airlines. However, a $400 savings at least in my book is very competitive, and in your case $600 even more so.

    As you pointed out with the price differential between Copa and American for first class in your above comment, it just goes to show people need to carefully compare different flight offers and how comparable they are in layover times, times of day of the flights, number of stops, etc, and go with what works best for them. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. And........... sometime after the first of the year, we'll all have to factor in using the new Quito airport. Then, overnight layovers will include more time and expense getting to and from the A/P. I've heard rumors of $30-$50 taxis and/or two hour bus trips in heavy traffic into or out of the city . With that in mind, I plan to route through GYE whenever possible. Hopefully, in time, if more folks from Cuenca do the same, air service between CUE-GYE-CUE will improve. In the meantime, there are always the vans!

  4. Terry, like you, I intend to use Guayaquil once the new Quito airport opens for all the reasons you mentioned. I wish the Ecuadorian airlines that service Guayaquil and Quito would offer an additional flight around 8:00 p.m., so the overnight stay could be eliminated. No way before or after hours on a flight am I going to spend three-four hours riding a van through the Cajas. I'm to restless to add additional sedentary time to my trip.

  5. As a retired airline pilot, I can tell you that I would choose COPA for my travel from Florida to central and South America every time. From virtually every viewpoint it is a much better experience. Their airplanes are relatively new. A good percentage of the flight crews are American or US trained. I even looked at going to work there when I reached 60 and had the opportunity to retire from my US airline. I am relatively certain that COPA's flight crews are happier than the crews at US based airlines. Have you ever wondered why you do not see warm and fuzzy promotional events between Sully Sullenberger and US Air?