It is now "required" but not always enforced, that you should have a ticket showing you are leaving Panama upon arrival at Panamanian Immigration (at the various Costa Rica border.  So, how safe would it be to simply book a reservation on Copa (held for up to three days without paying) and take that reservation with you to show in case you are asked?  
I have in the past used a paid for ticket on United, that you CAN get refunded but only when cancelled within 24 hours.  
Copa won't refund a ticket without penalty as is shown here 

a href="https://www.copaair.com/en/web/pa/faq-reservations>">https://www.copaair.com/en/web/pa/faq-reservations>;

thoughts?

and be aware I am in process of getting a Pensionado to avoid this problem on-going, but i need to do a couple more crossings beforehand.

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Same here, coming back last week.  I have always had them ask for a ticket.  Never for a bank statement, but I make sure to have the money in there anyways. 

Also, not one single refugee to be seen.

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