How to book United Airlines direct flight to Manila, Philippines using miles & points

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UPDATE Feb. 1, 2024

Philippine Airlines issued statement about the competition with United Airlines (SEE BELOW)

As a Filipino-American travel enthusiast, it’s exciting to see options when it comes to flying to the Philippines via direct nonstop flights. The only carrier known to fly nonstop between Manila and the US is none other than Philippine Airlines (PAL). The following major cities have nonstop PAL flights to/from Manila – New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Vancouver. What’s the big deal with nonstop flights? How long is a direct flight between Manila and California’s West Coast ? Try over 15 hours. Yes, very long.

As you might imagine, PAL ticket prices tend to be on the pricey side with them being the only airline that flies you nonstop between the US and Manila.

United Airlines direct flights between San Francisco and Manila, Philippines

The travel blogosphere was quite busy sharing this breaking news. I saw bits and pieces from One Mile At A Time, View from the Wing, The Points Guy, Travel and Leisure, and yes, Rappler Philippines. United Airlines will begin flying nonstop between Manila and San Francisco. It will use its Boeing 777-300ER which is their largest aircraft.

Services between Manilla and San Francisco begin October 29, 2023. According to OMAAT,expect to see this flight schedule:

  • UA191 San Francisco to Manila departing 12:35AM arriving 6:50AM (+1 day)
  • UA190 Manila to San Francisco departing 9:55AM arriving 7:20AM

Do you have to fly to or out of San Francisco to get the direct flight?

Yes, at this time, the direct flights with United are only offered between Manila and San Francisco.

How to search for United Airlines flights between Manila and San Francisco

Very simple. You could go directly to the United Airlines website. I happen to like the old United search tool – which allows you to see a 30-day calendar view.

You could choose SFO-MNL or MNL-SFO. But wait, what about those who do not live near San Francisco? In my case, I fly from LAX, and I do know that I would need a commuter flight from LA to SFO, and then catch the direct flight from SFO to Manila.

  • Go to United website
  • Click on Advanced search
  • This is how mine looked – my LA to Manila flight search.
  • Depending on how you plan on paying for the trip, choose Money or Miles accordingly.

For my example, I chose MILES. I also like to choose ONE-WAY options and just piece my trip together.

United Airlines Advanced Search (image courtesy of United)

 

If you see something “No flights match the filters you’ve selected” – click UPDATE again.

If it gives you an option to sign in to your United Miles account, just click X

When the results come out, click on View 30-day calendar. This view will allow you to select the days with lowest cost, and it’s best when you are flexible with your travel dates.

United Airlines 30-day calendar view – image courtesy of United

 

You will see in green, that in coach/economy, the lowest number of miles needed to fly one way from Los Angeles to Manila (via San Francisco) is for 42.8K miles + $5.60. Some days are higher. Click the date you want, I chose April 24, 2023.

Sample – LAX to Manila via San Francisco

 

You simply pick the flight you want. To view the details of the flight, just click DETAILS.

If you are ready to book and have enough points sitting with United, then you could book accordingly. Otherwise, you will need to transfer points from your credit card that transfers to United.

Using the sample above, you will see that from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Manila, there are Saver Award Fares for 42.8K United Airline miles + $5.60. Yes, that’s what you will need to pay for this one way ticket.

To find your return ticket, you just simply do the same thing in reverse. MNL-SFO, or in my case, MNL-LAX.

Here’s a sample of San Francisco to Manila (and strangely, the LAX-SFO-MNL required lesser miles of 42.8K than the SFO-MNL at 43.3K for the same time period)

 

San Francisco to Manila (image courtesy of United Airlines)

What about the coveted United Polaris

This is United’s creme de la creme, its business class experience – United Polaris. Yes, the 777-300ER has these business class seats, and they can be booked with your miles and points as well.

Onboard experience
United Airlines Polaris – image courtesy of United Airlines

I chose a random date in March, and found this for 170K miles + $5.60…this is a direct flight to Manila from SFO – over 15 hours.

SFO to MNL via United Polaris

Aeroplan booking options

Another way to search for flights with United is by checking Air Canada’s Aeroplan website. With Aeroplan transfer options, your choices do expand:

  • American Express Membership Rewards®
  • Capital One Miles
  • Marriott Bonvoy (see list of cards above)
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Aeroplan® Credit Card

Take advantage of the Transfer Bonus Offers to Aeroplan

This could be worth looking into because Aeroplan tends to have year-round transfer bonus offer deals from some of the above listed credit card programs. You just need to be on the lookout.

Just as an example, for Chase credit cardholders “Get 20% Bonus Aeroplan points when you transfer points between 12:00AM ET on June 15th, 2023 and 11:59PM ET on July 31st, 2023. Bonus Miles will be awarded by Aeroplan in your Aeroplan account when your transfer is complete. Promotional offer terms and conditions apply.” NOTE (this offer ended July 31, 2023).

Let’s use the sample below, a flight I found in Aeroplan website from SFO to Manila for 50K Aeroplan points + $75 CAD ($57 USD).

Image ourtesy of Aeroplan SFO to MNL

 

If you were to transfer points from Chase to Aeroplan during the promo period, you will earn a 20% bonus. So instead of transferring 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, all you will need to transfer are:

  • 42,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 20% bonus = 8,4000
  • Total points transferred to Aeroplan = 50,400 (and all you needed book a one-way ticket from SFO to Manila was 50,000 points, and you simply just used 42,000 points to make that happen)
  • Please note that the fees are in Canadian dollars

Other airlines that fly to the Philippines via Star Alliance

Yes, you can use the United website and you’ll see that there are other airlines that fly between Manila and the US. When you run your search, make sure to click ALL STAR ALLIANCE AIRLINES. I have seen the following airlines offer flights to/from Manila:

  • Singapore Airlines
  • ANA All Nippon Airways
  • EVA Airways
  • Asiana Airlines

Just know that choosing any of the above airlines will not give you a direct flight option between Manila and the US.

How to book United Airlines direct flights between San Francisco & Manila, Philippines using miles & points

This is where it gets interesting. Many of those who earn miles and points tend to focus on getting the following credit cards that will allow you to fly United. The good news, there are credit cards with Chase, American Express, BILT, Marriott, and United co-branded cards that could make this possible.

Personal credit cards

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠ *
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® *
  • United Explorer℠ Card
  • United Club Infinite℠  Card
  • United Gateway℠  Card
  • United Quest℠  Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
  • Bilt Mastercard®

Business credit cards

  • United℠ Business Card
  • Ink Business Cash® Credit Card*
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
  • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card *
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card

*For the cards with an asterisk, your points will need to be transferred to one of these cards in order for you to transfer to travel partners – Chase Sapphire Preferred ® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and/or Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, All the other cards listed do transfer directly to United.

 

Philippine Airines’ reaction to the new competition

On July 19, 2023, this was the PAL STATEMENT (philippineairlines.com)

Philippine Airlines welcomes additional competition on transpacific routes, a sign of the strength and vitality of the air travel market between the Philippines and the United States.

PAL has always embraced healthy competition among different players across our network.

Today, PAL operates 37 weekly flights on U.S. routes, including double daily flights to Los Angeles, daily flights each to San Francisco and Guam, and several weekly flights to New York and Honolulu. Our efforts have helped boost tourism, facilitate stronger PH-U.S. economic ties, and serve Balikbayan families, business travelers and trade flows in recent decades. We remain committed to those efforts to serve North America.

My thoughts on United Airlines nonstop between Manila and the US

For many years, Philippine Airlines dominated the nonstop market  between Manila and the US. While this promotion only includes San Francisco, you could see from my Los Angeles example that I am able to book a flight that originates out of LAX, and for all of the segments to be done under one ticket. I’m hopeful that this paves way for a healthy competition with Philippine Airlines, and perhaps, open up new opportunities for other airlines to begin offering more direct flights between the US and Manila.

 

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Editorial Disclosure – The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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