Panama ’s gateway cities in the United States are Atlanta, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City (JFK), Orlando, and Washington, D.C. There are nonstop flights between all of them and Panama City . Those coming from other U.S. cities will have to make one stop en route, and in some cases more.
Allow at least two hours to connect through any U.S. airport when returning from Panama City; clearing U.S. customs and immigrations can take a long time.
The busiest route is Miami–Panama City, with several daily nonstop flights each way. The flight takes a little less than three hours. Copa is the only airline that flies nonstop to Orlando, with 11 weekly flights.
The major carriers offering nonstop service from U.S. gateway cities are:
The discount airline Spirit Air (www.spirit.com ) introduced daily flights between Fort Lauderdale and Panama City in 2008.
Many visitors from the West Coast of the United States are surprised to discover they have to fly not just south but considerably east to get to Panama—Panama City is actually slightly east of Miami. Those traveling from the San Francisco Bay Area, for instance, most often take connecting flights through Houston, Atlanta, or Miami.
Airfares between the United States and Panama fluctuate, though bargain fares and packages are not as easy to come by as they are in, for instance, tourist-saturated parts of the Caribbean. Expect to pay around US$400–700 round-trip from most U.S. cities. Flights out of Miami and Houston tend to be on the cheaper end of the scale. The least expensive West Coast flights usually originate in Los Angeles, though the difference is generally not great enough to make it worthwhile for those outside of Southern California to route their trip through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Except for charters, there are no direct flights from Canada to Panama. Those flying to or from Canada will most likely have a stop in the United States or Mexico. Advance-purchase fares hover around C$1,000. Flights out of Toronto are generally cheaper than from other cities. Canadians are a major market for package deals that often include charter airfare. These can be very good value for those who like all-inclusive resorts. Check with a travel agent or contact any resort hotel listed in this book for current offers.