Flight 6 of 10, Panama City to Miami, #NMCLaborDay

Sixth Flight, AA 737-800 (repeat) AA 960

Getting up at 4am to catch a 7am flight is usually rough, but when you’ve taken 5 flights in the previous 24 hours, it makes it a little bit rougher. Thank God that we had a ridiculously comfortable bed at the Waldorf Astoria in Panama and were able to get to bed around 9pm and get a solid 7 hours of sleep.

Panama’s airport, Tocumen International, is about a 20-25 minute ride from the city center. Taxis are everywhere in Panama, but so is Uber, and the people love it. We took an Uber ride from the city center to our hotel and it cost $2.65. The trip from the hotel to the airport was around $23, but that’s only because the PTY airport tacks on a $14 surcharge for all drop-offs. OUCH!

Still, I feel much better paying $23 (via credit card to earn miles) for a safe and awesome Uber drive than grabbing a random taxi on the street at 5am from our hotel.

Checking in to the airport was no problem through the AA Priority line, but we were informed that they had no lounge affiliation with anyone at the airport so we were on our own. Luckily, we both have Priority Pass memberships and that gave us access to the Copa lounge. We’ll be writing a separate post on that in a short while.


Once we got our boarding passes, I noticed that I had the dreaded “SSSS” on my boarding pass. If you’re not familiar with the SSSS designation, it sucks. I think it stands for SUPER SUCKY SECURITY SCREENING. Basically it’s where you get pulled over to the side and someone gets to go through every inch of your belongings, and open up every bag, nook, and cranny of your stuff. I suppose the great part about doing it at 7am in Panama is that there aren’t that many flights so the wait wasn’t too long.

PTY airport is also very interesting in that all flights to the USA go through secondary security screening, so once you get to your gate, you have to go through the song and dance all over again. Shoes off. Computer out. Dignity, with your electronics in the bin please.

Editorial Side Note: I do love the Panamanian people. They have a real joie de vivre and it shows. They take their job seriously but at the same time they know how to have a good time. Even though she was going through all of my things, and all my dirty laundry, we were able to have a funny conversation and joke through the process. It was, at such an early hour, much appreciated.

I noted above that this was our second time on a 737-800, but in reality I think this should count as a different flight. The first 737 was on the “new American” with a new interior and new plane. This flight was on what I’ll call “vintage American” with the metal, unpainted exterior and the drop-down screens inside. We’re 45 minutes into the flight now as I’m typing this and so far, no movies have started. Oh wait, American Ninja Warrior just started playing. #Murica

Seriously? Drop down screens?

Seriously? Drop down screens?

Ben gave his scrambled eggs a resounding “meh” while I was rather confused by my French toast. It was more like a baguette stuffed with raisins and butter. A unique twist, and I’m still trying to figure out what they were thinking.

Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled Eggs

French Toast?!

French Toast?!

The good news is that the coffee was hot and strong and kept me going throughout the entire flight.

Since there wasn’t much entertainment on the flight and the flight attendants kinda hid in the galley after service, the rest of the flight was pretty mundane.

I’m wondering when American is going to complete the upgrades to their aircraft, or if they are at all. This was a 3-hour international flight and we had the old school aircraft, yet on a 1-hour shuttle they offered an upgraded experience. I suppose that makes sense in the end, as there are a lot of people running flights between LAX-SFO and not that many (two) running between Panama and Miami, so there isn’t much need to step up their game on the short-haul international product. From what I hear from some of the locals in Panama, the Copa product isn’t much more exciting.

Time for a 2 and a half hour layover in MIA and onto flight #7. We’re managing to make it through ok so far, stay tuned for the next flight and a new plane for us!

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. Was the PTY security real strict about liquids? I am doing this exact run next month with a quick turnaround in PTY. I am Pre-check, but regardless I pack more than the 1 bag of 3oz max liquids and never get my bag pulled aside even when I have to take out liquids and put in tray. Ive found TSA to not be that strict about them even being in a ziplock bag as long as they are under the 100mls etc. Im just wondering since this is not TSA and if they enforce the liquid rule to a single bag. Happened once to me by LHR security where I had to sacrifice so many other liquids (all under 100mls) since I couldn’t fit them into a single bag. I only travel with carry ons.

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    • So, fun fact 🙂 We actually were on the plane with another runner, and he was doing a direct turn around. You don’t have to leave the airport, all the gates are post-security. You will have to re-clear additional security at the gate however. It’s quite easy. Get off the jet bridge. Stop. Turn left. Walk 15 steps. You’re at your departure gate. No customs/no immigration. I was shocked. Re: liquids, I got the dreaded bag search, but they never took out the plastic bag and started looking at all my stuff. I would say you’re 80/20 OK.

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      • Thanks so much. Your blog is amazing!

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