Copa Airlines, the Panama-based Star Alliance member, has officially begun flights from Panama City (PTY) in Panama to Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL).
Flights are operated on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays on the Boeing 737-800 according to the following schedule:
- Depart Panama City 9:26 a.m. — Arrive Atlanta 1:37 p.m.
- Depart Atlanta 4:03 p.m. — Arrive Panama City 8:16 p.m.
Combined with service offered by Delta Air Lines on the Boeing 737-900, travelers will now enjoy nonstop daily service from Panama City (PTY) to Atlanta (ATL).
Star Alliance is the largest of all airline alliances, which means you’ll be able to book these flights using a variety of miles programs — notable names include United, Air Canada, and Turkish Airlines, along with Lufthansa and Avianca LifeMiles.
But just because they’re bookable doesn’t mean it’s a good use of your miles. Let’s review some possibilities.
Let’s take a look at the cost of a one-way ticket in economy from Panama City (PTY) to Atlanta (ATL) using your United MileagePlus miles:
At the start, 19,300 miles doesn’t seem exorbitantly expensive, especially for a flight topping 4 hours.
Earning United miles is also easy with a variety of co-branded credit cards and a transfer partnership with Chase Ultimate Rewards, which converts your Chase points to United miles at a 1:1 ratio.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Now let’s compare this to Air Canada’s Aeroplan, whose recently revamped program can offer some decently priced rewards:
Flights here are cheaper at just 12,500 points, and with both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards as 1:1 transfer partners, Aeroplan points are easy to earn. Combined with the recent launch of the Aeroplan® Credit Card, you’ll be swimming in Aeroplan miles in no time.
But how do these prices compare to Copa’s competitor, Delta Air Lines, on these flights? Delta SkyMiles are notoriously difficult to redeem due to Delta’s rapidly fluctuating award chart. However, when it comes to these same Panama City (PTY) to Atlanta (ATL) flights, you can find flights for as low as 10,000 SkyMiles one-way:
Keep in mind that this 10,000-mile flight is basic economy versus the standard economy offered by Copa’s flights. That being said, you’ll still pay just 12,000 SkyMiles for a standard economy ticket with a free checked bag and choice of seat.
Delta SkyMiles can be earned from any of Delta’s many co-branded credit cards or can be transferred over from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.
How To Determine Which Points or Miles To Spend
Although these flights aren’t far off from each other in terms of actual mileage (except you, United), you’ll also want to consider the value of each point you’re redeeming.
We value United miles at 1.3 cents each, meaning you’ll be redeeming $250.90 worth of United miles for this flight.
Air Canada Aeroplan points, meanwhile, are valued at 1.5 cents each. This means your redemption will cost you $187.50 worth of points.
Delta, as we previously mentioned, makes redeeming its SkyMiles for outsized value fairly difficult. Because of this, and among other reasons, we value Delta miles at just 1 cent each. This means you’ll be redeeming $100 worth of SkyMiles for a basic economy ticket or $120 for standard economy.
Do note that each of these options includes relatively high taxes and fees, which may mean it’s not worth it to redeem your miles at all. Here are the cash costs of these flights:
At these rates, here are the rates at which you’ll be redeeming your miles:
- United — 0.81 cents each after factoring in taxes and fees
- Air Canada — 1.01 cents each after factoring in taxes and fees
- Delta — 1.74 cents each after factoring in taxes and fees
Don’t forget that paying cash for a flight will earn you miles; you’ll also be able to earn more miles when paying with a travel credit card that maximizes your spend on airfare.
Hot Tip: United elite members can also opt to redeem their PlusPoints on Copa Airlines, though you’ll want to make sure this represents a good value for your upgrades.
Copa adding direct flights to Atlanta is good news for travelers, and especially beneficial for Star Alliance members who can now redeem their miles for award flights on this nonstop routing. Before booking, however, you’ll want to consider the redemption cost for your flight as well as its cash cost in order to make the most of your flights.
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