Copa Airlines has a tight relationship with United (partnership? part ownership?) and has cloned a lot of United’s program, like its award chart.
I realized that Copa upgrades work on United airlines, which made me look into the rewards program further.
With 6 global upgrades and 6 regional upgrades that work on United (as well as complimentary upgrades on Copa), the Copa PreferProgram becomes an interesting choice for status-chasers in the US.
The other benefit of Copa’s status over United, is that it doesn’t require $15,000 in spend to get the global upgrades. And, it requires less miles to get status, and it currently isn’t revenue based earning, even on United flights!
Recap of what we’ll discuss: Copa’s status requires less miles, earn more miles, no spend requirement, and way longer flights available for regional upgrades.
Almost everything is the same or significantly better with Copa status.
This post will discuss the following topics:
- Master Chart of Copa Airlines Status
- Copa Status Benefits
- How To Earn Copa Status
- Using Copa Miles
Master Chart Of Copa Airlines PreferProgram Status Qualifications & Benefits
The first half of this chart is how to earn Copa status, and the second half is a chart of all the benefits.
They of course have a chart of benefits, but like most programs, the majority of the benefits don’t differ by status tier… Which means therefore I don’t need a visual display to help me understand that they are all the same. So I’ll obligatorily add all the other benefits later in the post.
|Star Alliance Status||Star Alliance Silver||Star Alliance Gold||Star Alliance Gold||Star Alliance Gold|
|Minimum Flown Segments**||4||4||4||4|
|Complimentary Upgrade||Day of departure||48 hours||72 hours||120 hours|
|Complimentary Upgrade for Companion||●||●||●||●|
Connect Regional Upgrade
Connect Global Upgrade
|Free Checked Baggage Allowance (International)||2 at 50 lbs. (23 kg) each||3 at 70 lbs (32 kg) each||3 at 70 lbs (32 kg) each||
3 at 70 lbs (32 kg) each
|Free Checked Baggage Allowance (Domestic)||2 at 50 lbs. (23 kg) each||2 at 70 lbs (32 kg) each||2 at 70 lbs (32 kg) each||
2 at 70 lbs (32 kg) each
** = on Copa Airlines flights
See more details and terms here.
Copa Airlines PreferProgram Status Benefits
The chart above does a great job of explaining benefits for each status tier, and how to earn each status tier. But I wanted to dive into the details of the benefits a little, as they have particularly great upgrade benefits.
There are lots of benefits of status that I won’t go into because they are simply already explained in the chart above (like bags and earning 25% to 100% bonus miles).
Instead, I see upgrades as not only a main benefit, but the subject that needs the most time.
In this section I’ll discuss the following:
- Complimentary Upgrades
- Regional Upgrades
- Global Upgrades
- Lounge Access
- Benefits not on the chart above
Policies For All Upgrades:
- To apply any upgrades, you must have business class award availability.
- Must use by last day of Feb of the next year.
- You can find additional terms here.
Award Tickets Are Eligible For Upgrades!
It’s a little more clear for Regional and Global Upgrades, but still has similar language for complimentary upgrades.
“Award tickets are eligible for Connect Regional or Connect Global Upgrades.”
It does say that upgrades on United flights are not eligible for the following classes “Z, P, S, T, K, L, G and N”.
However, I went to United and checked an award to Japan and it was “X” class.
So in theory I could book a 35,000 mile United flight to Guam and use one of my Global Upgrades… Or book an award to Chile on Copa and use one of my regional upgrades. Pretty amazing.
However, Complimentary Upgrades already have a less clear policy:
Presidential PreferMembers who are flying Economy with tickets bought with miles on a Standard Award (G class) may be eligible for complementary upgrades depending on the availability of the flight, after finalizing the upgrade process of regular tickets.
6 Global Upgrades is the benefit that you only get at top tier status, “Presidential Platinum”.
The best part of these is that they work on all United and Copa flights.
Every year you qualify for Presidential status you get 6 Global Upgrades, which allows you to book an economy ticket and upgrade to business class.
However, I do not advise using Global Upgrades for Copa flights, since Regional Upgrades work on all Copa flights. Regionals are basically limited to Latin America, so I would save my Globals for long haul United flights to Europe, Asia, and Pacific.
You get 3 Regional Upgrades for reaching Platinum and 3 more after reaching Presidential.
The amazing thing here is that these regional “upgrades are valid on all Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia operated flights“.
All Copa flights? Even US to Chile or Argentina? In my opinion, that makes these some of the best mid-tier status upgrades.
The Global Upgrade policy is near identical to United’s, but the Regional Upgrades get the added benefit of redeeming on all Copa flights.
Regional Upgrades also work on United flights within “Continental U.S, Mexico, Hawaii, Central America, Alaska, Caribbean, Canada, Oceania – Except (HNL) Honolulu to (GUM) Guam”. So you could use a Regional Upgrade on a flight from LA to NYC, but other than those long domestic US flights it’s better “value” on Copa.
Complimentary Upgrades (on Copa flights)
Confirmation (as early as):
120 hours or 5 Days
72 hours or 3 Days
48 hours or 2 Days
Day of Departure of the flight
There is one odd term here: “Eligible for a Complimentary Upgrade if… the member is alone in a reservation“. So if two members are on the same ticket, are they better off booking separately?
Either way, this is an amazing benefit that starts at Silver. United limits theirs to United flights within specific regions, but on all Copa flights. Even at Silver, this is an amazing deal if I want to book last minute trips to South America. Wait until the 24 hour mark and pick a flight with Business award availability, and book right into business class at economy price. Pretty amazing.
For “Companion” Upgrades, they have to get upgraded at the airport during check-in process. “The companion will be added to the upgrade standby list at the airport.”
Talking to THE Frequent Miler before posting, he pointed out that United doesn’t actually give access to United Lounges to its own elite members on domestic flights, but it does give access to Star Alliance members on Star Alliance flights. This is another advantage of Copa over United status, even when flying domestically on United Airlines.
In general, accessing Star Alliance lounges is a nice benefit for anyone traveling Star Alliance globally.
List of Additional Copa Airlines Status Benefits
- Star Alliance benefits
- Better Saver Award Availability on Copa Airlines
- Reduced or Waived Call Center Booking Fee
- Reduced or Waived Late Booking Fee
- Reduced or Waived Same Day Change Fee
- Reduced or Waived Cancel & Refund Fee
- Preferential Check-in
- Preferential Security Screening (Where Offered)
- Preferential Boarding
- Preferential Baggage Handling
- PreferMember Services (Service Center Priority)
- Preferential Seating
How To Qualify For Copa Status
There are two ways to earn status on Copa:
1) Qualifying Miles on any Star Alliance airline.
2) Segments on Copa flights.
To earn status you need to meet the qualifications within a calendar year.
Just a reminder of qualifications:
Earning Copa Status With Segments
Earning via segments is only possible on Copa flights.
This is not tickets, but each segment on a flight.
The thing I’m not clear about here is if “Copa Airlines Colombia” flights count towards segments. My thought is no, because it’s the one time that it doesn’t specifically list it when it normally does. If it did, there would be a clear play to connect both in Panama and Colombia to maximize segments on tickets.
Maybe SJO (San Jose, Costa Rica) is another option, which has flights to Guatemala City, Managua, Panama City, Tegucigalpa… if you can figure out a way to force the SJO connection.
The problem with qualifying on segments is that you can only qualify on Copa, which is fine if you are going for a low status or already need Copa flights. If you only need 20 segments, sure, find a flight with 2 connections and fly it roundtrip 3.5 times. Bam. Status with the complimentary upgrades on Copa.
However, lounge access doesn’t come until Gold, and upgrades don’t come until Platinum, and the Global Upgrades (which can be used on United) don’t come until Presidential.
I’m just saying that 90 segments would be a ton of segments if you could only fly Copa.
Earning Copa Status With Miles
The problem with earning status with any airline these days is that airlines have severely gutted their earnings for discount economy flights… which is just the fancy term for basically all economy flights you see online and end up buying. Now “basic economy” versions of tickets still in economy seats can cost thousands more.
Still, if you can find partners with a decent fare and decent earnings, this could be the best way to qualify.
The only time we had Alaska top tier status was because we had a ton of mistake fares, like roundtrip flights to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East all under $200. Most of the flights only earned 50% Alaska Miles but the deals were so good we earned status pretty cheaply.
The biggest problem I see here is that elite Copa Status doesn’t give any bonus miles towards qualifying miles.
To see how many miles you would earn for a flight, you need to know two things.
- What percent of the miles flown do you earn on each airline.
- Click here to see earnings for each airline.
- You need to know the “Fare Class” code (i.e. “X” class, or “H”, etc..)
- You can find this when searching for a ticket on most sites, whether it’s Expedia or United.com.
- Read “How To Find The Fare Basis Code“
Example Of How To Find Earnings
These are not yet examples of deals and ways to earn miles, but showing how to know your fare class code, and what it means.
Here’s a flight on United.com in “H” class:
If I go to the page on Copa for earning United miles (here), I see that “H” class earns 100%.
If I go over to gcmap.com and type in the flight, “ORD-NRT”, I see that I fly 6,274, and with 100% I also would earn 6,274 miles.
Or here’s an EVA flight on Expedia in S class for the same route:
On Copa, “S” class earns 50% and so it would earn 50% of 6,274 miles flown (3,137 redeemable and qualifying miles).
Using Copa ConnectMiles
The other benefit with Copa Status is that Copa’s Star Alliance award chart is basically the same as United’s award chart before the devaluation two times ago (before they went partially distance-based, they raised some prices, like most business class).
Actually, I can’t remember but some prices may be even cheaper than that. For example, Japan to Guam is 12,500 miles on Copa, and I think that devalued a long time ago.
Then they have a different award chart for Copa flights.
Go here to look at actually booking online. It’s pretty easy and similar to United, but you have to select “All” airlines.
It’s similar to what you’d expect on United.com with slightly lower prices in many areas. The website even prices out by flight on multi-city award search.
However, it claims that 1 stopover is allowed, and doing basic searches that would even comply with the most basic of rules (like US – Europe – Europe – US) and it still prices out each flight separately and doesn’t give a free flight/stopover. So you might have to call.
The rule is technically the old United rules: 2 open-jaws and 1 stopover on roundtrip award tickets.
Compared to United, Copa’s status benefits are better, the terms are better, and the status is easier to earn.
This is one of the best status programs, but qualifying these days is quite hard. IMO, it all depends on finding a good fare that can earn lots of Copa miles.
But, if you were someone mileage running for United Status until they added the revenue requirement, in theory, you should like this program even more.
Since 2008, Continental had no ownership share in Copa, so United never had ownership of it.
So what’s the priority for the upgrades at united for copa presidental members? How do they rank with mileage plus members?
Please brush up on the usage of “fewer” vs “less”….
It should be “fewer miles” not “less miles”
I’m seeing 70000 miles for business award travel to Europe and 80000 to the Middle East on the Star Alliance chart. Seems to me the same as United (and United is 60000/75000 respectively on their own metal). Care to explain why this is the same as United award chart two devaluations ago??
Unless there is actual data points, I don’t really believe on gpu on x or I class.
What about getting a Copa credit card? Rewards are only 15,900 points but with no fee and looks like it gives you silver status.
Thanks for the legwork. Any interesting program to consider. I haven’t checked but I assume they still don’t own any wide body aircraft?
Correct. Their fleet is still all 737s and smaller. (They don’t have any flights longer than around 7 hours.) I flew their 737-MAX with lie-flat seats before they were grounded. Nothing spectacular, but they are comfy enough.
If you were a panameñian or have temporary residence you can apply for a connect miles black card. (MC ir Amex) it has an anual fee of 150$.
It will instantly give you silver class without even flying ever in copa. Is pretty easy to apply for. And it will give you a “Companion ticket” it means that if you a book a flight of any price on copa and have a companion, the ticket will cost only 100$. The downside is that is only once per year.
The silver status alone is worth the 150$ anual credit fee.