(For quick advice on choosing between Copa and Air Panama for your in-country flights, check out our advice in this post.)
After four long years, it’s finally happened: Copa airlines (who codeshares with United) is starting flights from Panama City’s international airport at Tocumen (PTY) to David, twice per day. Reservations are available already for dates starting 15-Jan-15. So you can now buy a ticket from anywhere in the world straight to David (DAV), and not deal with driving across town to the regional airport and flying on Air Panama.
This is obviously great news for both hotel guests and homeowners, as it makes it easier to get to Isla Palenque in one day from anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, and will provide a small boost to land and home values (it is also the first step to Copa eventually bringing flights direct to David from, say, Miami or Houston, which will really increase values).
It’s been really interesting to see what an amazing amount of money Panama is able to pour into infrastructure. (And while I don’t know for sure, I suspect this is due to income from the Canal, which is basically like an ATM spitting out a huge amount of money to a relatively small government.) While most of the infrastructure improvements are going into things like Panama City’s Metra, Canal expansion, etc, a surprising amount makes its way out to the countryside.
When I first visited Isla Palenque, the airport at David was not much bigger than a truck stop, with prop planes going in and out: now the airport is bigger and nicer than most I’ve seen in Caribbean countries that get far more tourism, and Air Panama uses jets that seat 40. With Copa, the planes will seat 94, 10 in business class (yay for me, who flies Copa so often that I always get free upgrades).
Likewise, the 20-mile road from the highway down to Boca Chica was at that time just dirt (or more precisely, mud, as it was the height of rainy season), and took almost an hour. Now it’s all paved and takes less than 30 minutes. Even the highway near David, which was always already better than most roads in Central America, is getting expanded to four lanes, just as the road to Boquete was expanded a couple years ago, cutting travel time in half during especially trafficky periods. Getting around in Panama just gets easier and easier with every passing year.
If there’s a downside, it is only that guests will have a few more decisions to make when deciding how to get to Isla Palenque, as Air Panama’s schedule still might be the best option for some folks, depending on your interest in Panama City and international flight schedules. The decision now gets complicated enough that we have an entire blog post dedicated to it. That said, though – and truth be told – it is almost always better to take Copa, especially if you care about price, enjoy your flights to be more or less on time, and care about customer service (Air Panama has had a monopoly on local flights for far too long…)