Everything to know about Copa Airlines status

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Copa Airlines has a tight relationship with United Airlines and has even cloned many aspects of United’s program (like its award chart, before United decided to put theirs in the trash bin). When I realized that Copa Airline’s upgrade certificates work on United Airlines, it made me look into the rewards program further. With six global upgrades and six regional upgrades that work on United (as well as complimentary upgrades on Copa), the Copa loyalty program becomes an interesting choice for status-chasers in the U.S.

The other benefit of Copa’s status over United is that it doesn’t require tons of spending (up to $15,000!) to get Global Upgrades. Also, it requires fewer miles to get status — and currently isn’t revenue-based earning, even on United flights!

I’ll show you why all this stuff means you should chase Copa elite status — and how to most easily do it.

(Photo by Markus Mainka/Shutterstock)

Master chart of Copa Airlines PreferProgram status qualifications and 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 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.

Here are the normal qualifications for earning Copa status, just for posterity. These don’t reflect the current qualifications, because Copa has lowered them due to the effects of coronavirus.

And below are the current requirements, adjusted for coronavirus.

Star Alliance statusSilverGoldGoldGold
Qualifying miles17,00030,00050,00065,000
Qualifying segments**15305065
Minimum flown segments**4444

PreferMember bonus25%50%75%100%
Lounge accessNoYesYesYes
Complimentary upgrade
Complimentary upgrade for a companion (MAX9 routes)
Connect Regional UpgradeNoNo33
Connect Global UpgradeNoNo No6
Economy Basic free checked baggage allowanceNone1 at 50 lbs (23 kg) each1 at 50 lbs (23 kg) each1 at 50 lbs (23 kg) each
Economy Classic free checked baggage allowance2 at 50 lbs (23 kg) each3 at 50 lbs (23 kg) each3 at 50 lbs (23 kg) each3 at 50 lbs (23 kg) each

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. Actually, I see upgrades as not only the main benefit but the subject that needs the most time.


To apply upgrades, you must have business class award availability. You must also use them by the last day of February of the next year. You can find additional terms here.

Complimentary upgrades

StatusConfirmation (as early as):
Presidential120 hours or 5 Days
Platinum72 hours or 3 Days
Gold48 hours or 2 Days
SilverDay 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. This is handy if I want to book last-minute trips to South America. Just wait until the 24-hour mark and pick a flight with Business award availability, and book right into business class at the economy price. Pretty amazing.

Regional upgrades

You get three Regional Upgrades for reaching Platinum, and three more after reaching Presidential.

The crazy thing here is that these regional “upgrades are valid on all Copa Airlines and Copa Airlines Colombia operated flights.“ All Copa flights? Even U.S. to Chile or Argentina? In my opinion, that makes these some of the best mid-tier status upgrades.

Regional Upgrades also work on United-operated flights in the following regions:

  • Mainland U.S. and Canada
  • Hawaii
  • Caribbean
  • Mexico
  • Central America
  • Oceania

United doesn’t really operate many flights within those regions, except the U.S., of course. So the real value here is for Transcontinental flights on United and long-haul flights on Copa.

Global Upgrades

Six 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 six 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, anyway. Regionals are basically limited to Latin America, so I would save my Globals for long-haul United flights to Europe, Asia, and the Pacific.

Lounge access

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.

Benefits not on the chart above

There are a number of things I just didn’t include on the above chart because they’re more peripheral. For example:

  • 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

Are any of these things enough to move the needle towards earning Copa status for you?

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. Here’s a reminder of the adjusted requirements.

Qualifying Miles17,00030,00050,00065,000
Qualifying Segments15305065

Qualifying miles on any Star Alliance airline

The problem with earning status with any airline these days is that airlines have severely gutted their earnings for discount economy flights. Still, if you can find partners with a decent fare and decent earnings, this could be the best way to qualify.

For example, the only time I had Alaska Airlines’ top-tier status was because I had taken advantage of a ton of mistake fares, including 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 that I earned status pretty cheaply anyway.

The biggest problem I see here is that elite Copa Status doesn’t give any bonus miles towards qualifying miles (only redeemable miles). To see how many miles you would earn for a flight, you need to know two things:

Segments on Copa flights

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 the site 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 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 San Jose 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. It’s not the path of least resistance.

Bottom line

Compared to United status, Copa’s status benefits are better, the terms are better, and the status is easier to earn. Its status requires fewer miles, earns more miles, and it’s got no spend requirement. Oh, and way longer flights are available for regional upgrades.

Almost everything is the same or significantly better with Copa! Even the Copa Airlines Silver benefits (the lowest tier) prove to be quite valuable. Not the case for most U.S. airlines.

This is one of the best status programs, but qualifying can be quite hard. In my opinion, it all depends on finding a good fare that can earn lots of Copa miles.

Drew founded the points and miles site Travelisfree.com in 2011 and has also worked with The Points Guy. He and his wife spent years traveling nomadically until they sold Travel is Free in 2019.

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