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We will fly from Charlotte (CLT) to Orlando (MCO) on American Airlines. From there we will take Copa airlines to Panama. I appreciate any advice: Is 2 hours enough to move from the arrival gate to the departure one, considering that they are two separate booked flights and I will have to check my luggage and go through check point?

  • Welcome new user. As everyone has said, there is little chance of making that. Be aware that MCO is famously one of the worst airports anywhere for making connections - the security lines can be amazingly long. :/ – Fattie Mar 31 at 11:42
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This is a pretty bad idea, especially with checked bags. When you book flights separately like this, you're arranging your own connection. If you miss that flight to Panama, the next one with available space may not be for at least a day (Copa does operate a couple of flights a day from MCO, so figuring out whether you're on the first one or the last one would be helpful), and you may have to pay significant change fees.

Copa's check-in counters close 60 minutes before departure time, and they recommend that you arrive three hours before departure for flights departing the US. Even if your first flight is on time, it could easily take the better part of an hour before you get off the plane, walk through the satellite terminal, ride the train, wait for your bags, exit the secure area, walk to the departure area, find the Copa counter, and check-in. If your first flight is even slightly delayed, or even if the luggage takes an excessive amount of time to arrive, you could miss the check-in deadline.

Unless you're very familiar with dealing with separate bookings, I'd highly recommend you purchase a single ticket for this trip (which will likely involve different airlines and routing), so that you do not need to recheck your bags and benefit from the airline's protections if you misconnect. If you must travel on two separate bookings, I'd leave much more time in between the flights and be prepared to deal with the effects of any delays.

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I wouldn't be comfortable with a two-ticket connection that short.

If everything goes to plan, things should be fine. However, all it takes is for your incoming plane to be half an hour late, and baggage reclaim to be slow, and you're butting up against the usual requirement to check in at least an hour before the departure of an international flight. And then if getting back through security is low, you can probably politely push to the front of the line, and probably make your flight but all of this is stressful and not a good start to your trip.

If you don't make it to check-in on time, Copa will probably try to rebook you but they're under no obligation to do so: it's your responsibility to get to the departure airport on time and, as far as Copa are concerned, Orlando is your departure airport. It's not their problem that you got there by plane rather than by car from downtown.

If you must buy two separate tickets, I would suggest allowing at least three or four hours transit time in Orlando. However, I just searched and found that American will fly you Charlotte–Miami–Panama City on random dates in the middle of April for about $750. The key advantage of being on one ticket is that the airline will automatically rebook you if you miss a connection due to a delayed flight, and your luggage will be checked through to your final destination.

  • 1
    If OP didn't have bags, could they just stay in the sterile area? – Harper Mar 30 at 21:26
  • @Harper Not if they need to check in for their next flight, right? – David Richerby Mar 30 at 21:31
  • I haven't flown international in an age, I just assumed all check-in these days was replaced by printing your boarding pass at home. Boca does seem to have that (unless you're unlucky)... With web check-in, when do they challenge you for your proof of right to enter the destination country? – Harper Mar 30 at 21:51
  • @Harper I always have bags to check when I'm flying internationally so they check then. Not sure what would happen if I was travelling without checked bags. – David Richerby Mar 30 at 22:04
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    @Harper, the OP has luggage, and moreover, it's almost certainly the case that Copa would want you to physically check-in, unfortunately. (Even if you're just traveling with your wallet.) – Fattie Mar 31 at 11:44
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Eep. Since the flights aren't on the same ticket, making the connection is all on you. In that case, I wouldn't shave it that close on a domestic flight inside the same terminal, and not checking bags (so I get to stay in the sterile area). And I'm solo and agile.

In this case, you are

  • starting with any delays from the first flight (and American owes you nothing if they're late)
  • cat-herding a family
  • somebody needs bathroom
  • waiting for baggage
  • lugging bags around
  • changing terminals (finding transit, etc.)
  • getting to the front in a check-in line, which can be enormous

You have 1 hour to do all of the above, since Copa has a 1-hour-before-flight cutoff for check-in.

Even if you accomplish the check-in online, which they may randomly not allow, you still have to also (in 30 more minutes)

  • queue and clear TSA inspection
  • find your gate and get to it
  • present your documents to prove you have permission to enter Panama

It would be a crowning moment of awesome if you pulled it off. Far more likely, this malfunctions, and it's all on you. Copa owes you nothing, you are at their mercy and I gather you chose this circus because it's cheap, this is why it's cheap so don't expect a bailout. You could have to pay to rebook, then get a motel for the night with transportation there also.

My advice would be change the domestic booking so it's earlier. Schedule 5 hours earlier so you have slack time for all of the above.

Also, fire your travel agent :)

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