Panama is a relatively new tourism destination and so airfares are still higher than longtime destinations like Mexico and Costa Rica. The major airlines that fly to Panama are Continental, Delta, American, Copa, Spirit, Mexicana, Taca and KLM from Amsterdam. Panama has direct flights from New York (Copa, Delta), from Newark (Continental) from Washington D.C. (Copa), from Miami (American, Copa), Los Angeles (Copa), Houston (Continental), Dallas (American), Orlando (Copa) and Fort Lauderdale (Spirit). Here are some tips on getting the cheapest airfares.
1. Fly Discount Spirit Air but they're not reliable.
Spirit Air is an American discount airline offering the cheapest airfares to Panama from their Fort Lauderdale, Florida hub. However, this is only an option if you don't have to get to Panama on a certain date. Spirit Air is unreliable- frequently connections are not made and flights are cancelled. These are red-eye flights and are Mondays, Wednesday and Saturdays only and returning from Panama Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays only.
Fares vary according to dates but vary between $200 and $400. The departure time from Ft. Lauderdale is 11 pm and arrival time in Panama is 2am and the departure time from Panama is 2am and arrival in Fort Lauderdale is 5:45 am, (which is actually good for connecting flights).
2. Fly From Costa Rica. For those visiting West Panama ie Bocas del Toro or Chiriqui province,
you can fly to Costa Rica and then fly to David, Panama. Because of high volume, airfares are much cheaper to Costa Rica and with some research you can find flights to San Jose for as little as $200.00. From San Jose you can take bus (around $30) to David, the capital of Chiriqui or you can fly to David on Air Panama for $245. Air Panama flies to David on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We recommend you fly from San Jose to David since the border crossing experience is miserable.
3. Check out Mexicana Airlines and Cheapoair.com fares to Panama.
Mexicana is a Mexican airline that flies to Panama via another Central American country. The flights leave late at night from the States but the fares are rock bottom. We have bought round trip tickets from the San Francisco bay area for as little as $430.00. Cheapo-air specializes in cheap fares using Central American airlines like Mexicana and Taca. You'll find some great fares here.
4. Fly Monday thru Thursday.
Airfares are lowest on those days so plan both to depart and return on those weeks days and you will get the lowest fare on regular airlines.
And remember it will be cheaper if you fly Monday-Thursday.
6. Avoid coming to Panama from December 15th to January 6th. Fares are highest during the Christmas/New Year holidays. Mid December thru March which is the high season and the summer months June-August fares are also higher.
7. Get a Retirement Visa in Panama and get a 25% discount on all international and domestic airfares.
If you are going to reside in Panama and are of retirement age ( in Panama that is 57 for a woman and 60 for a man) get a Retirement Visa. For this you need a lawyer and it will cost around $1000.00.
But it will pay for itself quickly in airfares, since all retired persons get a 25% discount on both international and domestic airfares.
( Your retirement visa makes you eligible for many other discounts as well. See our Panamainfo page about Retired Persons discounts)
8. Check Out Airline Websites for Seasonal Specials .
Delta, Continental, American and Copa offer some low rates during low seasons. Low season is generally April through October. When checking for prices on their sites, remember the lowest fares will be those with Monday through Thursday departure and return days.
9. Visit Panama Free on a Stop Over Visit.
If you're going somewhere else in the region via Panama on Copa, you can schedule a Panama vacation stop for free. Copa doesn't charge for layovers in Panama.
Also, you can use your frequent flyer miles with Continental, Delta and Copa which all share the same frequent flyer program. Copa has the most direct flights to Panama- from New York, Newark, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando and Washington D.C.
10. Cheapest Flights to and from Europe
KLM has direct flights three times a week from Amsterdam and Iberia has direct flights three times a week from Madrid. These flights usually have the lowest fares. If you are in Panama neither airline has a customer service office so the only way to get a ticket is online or through a local travel agency. We recommend Fidanque Travel, tel: 265-5599.
Bonus: Get a Free Stop-Over with Copa Arilines
This applies for those flying on Copa Airlines to a Latin America or Caribbean destination. If your flight has a stopover in Panama, you can extend that stop over in Panama for a day or two and then continue to your final destination without any extra fees from Copa. Ask Copa or your travel agent for more details.