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20 years

Copa Airlines systems crash leaves Chinchilla, others trapped in Panama after Ibero-American summit

October 21st, 2013 ( President Laura Chinchilla was “trapped” in Panama City’s Tocumen Airport on Saturday after attending the Ibero-American Summit, the result of a “system failure” at Copa Airlines.


Chinchilla took to Twitter to express her discontent from the airport where she said she had already spent hours without any explanation from Copa Airlines staff.


At one point, Chinchilla tweeted that she had suggested taking Ticabus back to Costa Rica, or “locating a boat and taking to the sea, we can choose either the Atlantic or Pacific thanks to the canal.”


The president continued to joke with dozens of Twitter users for the six hours she spent in the airport’s Diplomatic Room, adding that “this long wait was less tortuous,” by being able to communicate with the social network’s users.


Chinchilla wasn’t all jokes, however, at one point suggesting that a class action lawsuit against the airline should be considered.


At 11:20 p.m. Chinchilla tweeted a photo of her and the Costa Rican delegation’s dinner, consisting of burgers, fries, and sodas.


Chinchilla said that other diplomatic delegations from several countries were also caught in the chaos, but said she was the only Head of State.


The failure, of course did not affect only diplomats.  Hundreds of people were stranded at the airport, including hundreds destined for Costa Rica.


“We were treated like animals, overcrowded, without air conditioning, including children and elderly,” one passenger said, adding that there were babies in need of diapers and milk and seniors in need of care.


The Government of Costa Rica sent a diplomatic letter to Panama asking the country to assist Costa Ricans in returning home as soon as possible.


While Copa blamed the shutdown on a systems failure, one passenger said that he was told there was a strike and no crews available to staff flights.


Several passengers also said the airline had lost their luggage.


In a press release, Copa said the incident was caused by the unexpected failure of a computer network which is critical “for dispatching services, flight plans and monitoring of aircraft and crew from the Panama operations headquarters.”


As of press time, reports of canceled and delayed Copa Airlines flights, including at Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria airport, continue to be received.


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  • disgusted

    Lady Laura having to eat burgers fries and a soda! Shameful!! and wait in a diplomatic lounge outrageous, Right lady Laura?? I sure that would never happen here in Costa Rica. I waited 5 hours for the roads to open in traffic here a few years ago in the car. This could be just the thing to get CR air force one into action. I wonder what really came out of the conference anyway other than all expense paid trip on the backs/taxes of the working Costarricense here.

    • Frank Castle


      Why can’t Costa Rica spring for a DC3 for the short hops? It’s one of the most reliable planes ever built and they are pretty spacious. I’m sure one can be picked up at a reasonable price.

      • disgusted

        Frank Hi I was being sarcastic. There was talk about a CR presidential plane after Lady Laura took a ride on a drug cartel owned plane. It seems there is no limit here just like USA in spending Costarricense money they collect in taxes. I heard this conference was a bust anyway just like the current PLN presidency with Pres. Chinchilla at the helm or is that Oscar?? Humm.

  • John Dungan

    So, maybe she should have gone by limo…oh, wait, the roads in Costa Rica are too bad, not to mention, a bit tiny for something like a limo.

  • Jimmy Kirk

    Perhaps now she might understand other peoples feelings about the airport in San Jose waiting for custom services and other things. Or even better, the wait times for bus service in many areas of Costa Rica that have no access to airlines. Time for the administration to endure the same hardships that the every day person has to live by and perhaps they will understand the cries for help from the people?

  • Ken Morris

    Maybe she should try the waits at the Caja and migración and suggest a class action lawsuit against them for “system failure” too? Six hours is nothing. Try six days, and that’s if you’re lucky.

    • Frank Castle


      Caja is a good example of what awaits us Americans with Obamacare. Thanks for bringing it up.

      • Ken Morris

        Tranquilo, Frank. Most countries have a public healthcare system and most of them work pretty well. You can’t just assume that Obamacare will be as bad as the Caja. And for what it’s worth, ALL the major US airlines are now government run, at least indirectly since they’re all flying under the direction of the bankruptcy courts. Some things like healthcare and transportation have to be publicly run, since private enterprise fails, but this doesn’t mean that they have to be run as badly as the Caja.

  • The man who waits

    Well I was there for 31 hours….. In the terminal…

  • v walker

    We had just arrived after two flights lasting around 12 hours from UK and was at this airport for over 30 hours, no food, no explanations, no change clothes etc., the staff all spoke Spanish and didn’t translate, my daughter fainted whilst we lined up for 4 hours for flight details. We had to sleep on the dirty floor as we were so tired from travelling, sent to different gates all over the airport and after all this no apology, as yet…won’t ever go there again. I think the President didn’t get treated like the rest of us poor souls, must have been comfortable in her lounge with food and drinks !!! Our flight was cancelled and we couldn’t get another for over 24 hours, to add insult to injury, the flight was again delayed by yet another 4 hours and then woman at the gate held us up yet again checking everyone’s tickets, departing 4 hours late. They were so rude.

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