Best Kept Secret To Asia: One Airline With Fantastic Award Availability

by Sanjay

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It’s become pretty difficult to find business class awards on transpacific flights with well-known Asian carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. The limited number of award seats that are released are usually gobbled up quickly because they are easy to book with all of the major credit card point currencies. There’s limited supply and lots of competition.

However, there is an often-overlooked option — a hidden gem to Asia — that typically has wide-open award availability: Philippine Airlines.

Where Does Philippine Airlines Fly To In North America?

Philippine Airlines offers non-stop service from Manila to the following cities in North America:

  • Vancouver (YVR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Toronto (YYZ)
  • New York (JFK)

All flights to the west coast are operated by a Boeing 777-300. The Philippine Air website has a nifty virtual tour of the 777 cabin. 

Unfortunately, the business class product is arranged in tight 2-3-2 configuration. However, other trip reports indicate the food and service is high-quality, while the ground service leaves something to be desired. Still, not a bad way to get to Asia.

Point Me To The Plane | Image by Philippine Air

Point Me To The Plane | Image by Philippine Air

PAL’s New A350 To New York 

However, Philippine Airlines recently launched an even better product onboard a new A350 with 5x-a-week service to New York (JFK) and Toronto (YYZ), which feature Thompson Vantage XL business class seats. These seats turn into a roomy 78-inch bed when in the lie-flat position.

From Manila, Philippine Airlines has a fairly extensive network across Asia and to the Australia/Oceania region.

Point Me To The Plane | Image by Philippine Airlines

Point Me To The Plane | Image by Philippine Airlines

Point Me To The Plane | Image by Philippine Airlines

Point Me To The Plane | Image by Philippine Airlines

Image by Flightconnections.com | Point Me To The Plane

Image by Flightconnections.com | Point Me To The Plane

How To Book Philippine Airline Awards

Philippine Airlines offers up great availability because it’s challenging — though certainly not impossible — to easily search for and book awards. That means the competition for award seats is limited. Let’s get to it.

The Surprisingly Hard Way To Book PAL Awards: Mabuhay Miles

Philippine Airline’s own Mabuhay Miles program may actually be the most challenging way to book award seats. The program is not a transfer partner of any credit card program and does not participate in the Marriott Bonvoy airline transfer program. This means that the only way to earn Mabuhay Miles is to actually fly Philippine Airlines metal.

For those that do have large balances with Mabuhay, redemption rates are quite attractive.

Philippine Air award chart

Source: Philippine Air

One-way business class awards to the west coast are only 58,000 miles, while flying to Toronto or New York requires 67,000 miles.

Booking awards with Mabuhay Miles requires calling a service line to find award space and then visiting a physical office to ticket. No thanks.

The Best Way To Book PAL Awards: ANA Mileage Club

The best way to book awards with Philippine Airlines is through their partnership with ANA, a Japanese airline and American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner.

ANA only allows roundtrip redemptions and, when it comes to non-alliance partners, requires both legs be on the same partner. This means that you will need to find Philippine Airlines availability for both legs of your journey.

Unfortunately, Philippine Airlines award inventory cannot be searched online. To find award seats, call ANA at 1-800-235-9262 and indicate to the agent you’re specifically looking at flights on PAL. Hold times can sometimes be long, but the agents are always excellent and friendly.

ANA prices awards based on a zone-based chart, with the Philippines falling into ‘Asia 1.’

ANA zones

Image by ANA Mileage Club | Point Me To The Plane

The award chart offers amazing value from North America, with round-trip business class at only 95,000 miles.

ANA Mileage Club award chart from North America Zone 6

Image by ANA Mileage Club | Point Me To The Plane

American Express Membership Rewards points can be transferred to ANA online at a 1000:1000 rate, but note that transfer times usually take ~48 hours.

Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer to ANA at a 3:1 ratio with a 15,000 bonus for every 60,000 miles transferred.

ANA does allow stopovers on award itineraries. Consider spending some time exploring the Philippines before traveling onward in Asia. I personally recommend hopping over to El Nido, one of the most stunning destinations I’ve visited in Asia.

Image of El Nido, Philippines

Image by Unsplash | Point Me To The Plane

The Alternative Redemption For PAL Awards: Etihad Guest

For those who need the flexibility of one-way awards, Etihad’s Guest program can be a decent option for booking flights with Philippine Airlines.

Much like ANA, you will need to call Etihad to find availability. As a general rule, I find Etihad phone agents to be a wildcard –some are very competent and helpful and others barely know the names of Etihad’s many partners. You may need to call a few times to find an agent who can help.

Once you find availability, award prices are high –- but can sometimes make sense.

Etihad award chart for PAL

Etihad uses a distance-based award chart with Philippine Airlines. One-way business class awards to the west coast, which fall within the 6000 – 8000 distance band, will price out at 124,444 miles. Flights to New York and Toronto are in excess of 8000 miles and will cost 155,556 miles. Awards must be booked at least 14 days prior to travel.

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles and Citi Thank You points to the Etihad program.

Need More Miles To Fly PAL?

Below are my top recommendation for current card offers to help top of your points for redemption on Philippine Airlines (or many other carriers).

American Express Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards are the most valuable currency for booking awards on Philippine Airlines (and many other flights).

Currently American Express is offering 35,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months of account opening of the the American Express Gold Card. This card earns 4x Membership Rewards points on on restaurants and supermarkets (up to $25k a year).

The Platinum Card by American Express is currently offering 60,000 Membership Reward points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. There is currently a targeted offer for 100,000 Membership Rewards for some people. Try the CardMatch tool to see if you’ve been targeted. Earning this bonus would be more than enough miles to fly roundtrip on Philippine Air by booking with ANA.

For small business owners, I also always recommend the no-annual fee American Express Blue Business Card, which earns an amazing 2x Membership Rewards points on ALL spend up to $50,000 a year.

Marriott Bonvoy

Another alternative option is to top up on Marriott Bonvoy points, which transfer to both ANA and Etihad (and 41 other airlines!) and offer 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 miles transferred. The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card from Chase is currently offering 100,000 sign up points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. The card also comes with a free night award, which can be used to stay at one of the many excellent Marriott properties in Asia.

Capital One Venture Rewards

Capital One Venture points are easy to accumulate and transfer to Etihad’s Guest program. I recommend the Capital One Venture Reward card. The current offer is for 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

10 comments
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10 comments

colleen April 16, 2019 - 3:03 pm

From the picture, that A350 J class seat looks angle-flat, no?

Reply
Mark April 16, 2019 - 4:08 pm

PAL also now fly the A350 out of Toronto.

Reply
Sanjay April 16, 2019 - 8:21 pm

Thanks the update. Corrected!

Reply
John April 17, 2019 - 12:36 am

Amazing write up! I’ve been waiting for PAL to get on bloggers’ radars as I had a feeling that ANA had to work with PAL on miles since they’ve been code sharing for many years. I guess now they’re partners. I just never saw any options online. Thank you for this. Serious question: Philippine Airlines flies direct LAX-MNL. How would we be able to maximize a free stopover in this case when using ANA miles?

Reply
Sanjay April 17, 2019 - 6:36 am

Glad you liked it! Yes the partnership with ANA is incredibly valuable.

Your only option is to do a stopover in the Philippines. You can stop in Manilla and then catch a cheap flight to anywhere in Philippines or in the region. You’d then pick up your PAL itinerary and go outbound from Manilla to another destination in Asia 1, 2, or Australia/Oceania. Note that it will cost more miles if you choose to go into Asia 2 or Australia/Oceania, but it’s still a great value!

Reply
Kellie May 25, 2019 - 4:08 pm

Thanks for the info on booking PAL through ANA using Amex Rewards. Going to book this for a trip to Palawan. Where in El Nido would you reccomend staying?

Reply
Sanjay May 25, 2019 - 4:23 pm

I went several years ago and didn’t really love where I stayed, so I don’t have a great recommendation to offer. Glad you found the article useful – you’ll love El Nido!!

Reply
Hello Kitty May 10, 2019 - 10:34 am

Great hack and easy to follow instructions on how to book the flights! Perfect for my next getaway to the Amanpulo!

Reply
Rick January 7, 2020 - 5:50 pm

Does expert flyer show award availability for Philippines flights?

Reply
Sanjay January 7, 2020 - 6:19 pm

Yes, it does.However, I would still check with ANA as they don’t always see the same availability. I’ve had situations where ExpertFlyer shows availability that ANA cannot book.

Reply

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