By: 10xTravel Reader Icee

My travel goal in 2018 was to travel in a premium cabin long haul on a flight of at least 10 hours. I redeemed points for my first semi-long haul trip to Tokyo in December 2017 (thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve sign-up bonus of 100,000 points) and I was addicted!

My strategy to achieve this goal was relatively simple: put travel and dining expenses on my Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x), expenses falling within the quarterly categories on Chase Freedom (5x) and all other expenses on Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5x).

This is commonly referred to as the “Chase Trifecta” and it is one of the more popular card combinations for travel fanatics.

I was looking to travel late in the year to give me some time to accumulate the needed points.

Destination: The Philippines.

Manila using points and miles
El Nido, Palawan, Philippines, aerial view of beautiful lagoon in the Bacuit archipelago.

Nonstop flights to Manila from Los Angeles are at least twelve (12) hours. For this trip, my husband and I were going to Manila (capital city), Bacolod City (our hometown), El Nido, Palawan, and Boracay, Aklan.

There are no better words to describe the last two than “beach paradise”. Picture stunning lagoons, limestone cliffs jutting out of crystal clear blue-green waters (El Nido), swimming pool-like waters and powder soft white sand (Boracay) – if those appeal to you, you should definitely visit!

Los Angeles to Manila using points and miles | LAX to MNL using points and miles
Beach lounge bar loungers chairs and umbrellas on tropical exotic Boracay island in the Philippines.
Los Angeles to Manila using points and miles | Fly to Manila (MNL) from Los Angeles (LAX) using points and miles
Aerial view of Puka beach in Boracay Island, Western Visayas, Philippines.

We are staying with friends and relatives for the most part of the trip so earning points for accommodations was not part of my strategy.

Los Angeles to Manila using points and miles | The Ruins Bacolod
The Ruins near Bacolod City, Philippines. Located in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, Philippines.

Sometime in the year, I came across a service peddling discounted business class seats and nearly availed myself of it. I got to the point where the company sent me a quote for business class seats. Fortunately, I researched and found out that a number of these companies buy mileage points from frequent fliers and use these points to book your tickets (prohibited in most frequent flier programs). This can result in canceled tickets and getting stuck in an airport, somewhere… just a word of caution.

Editors Note: We at 10xTravel agree, these services should be avoided.

However, I also realized that the company sent me a quote for seats on Singapore Airlines, which was an airline transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and an airline that is on my bucket list to fly in a premium cabin. I quickly logged on to search for award space and found it was only available via waitlist. Slightly disappointed, I placed the seats on a waitlist and tried to forget about it.

Not even a week has passed when I received an email notifying me that I was no longer waitlisted and the award seats on Singapore Airlines were available for me to book! They were generous in giving me three business days to transfer points to my KrisFlyer account to confirm the booking.

American Express Membership Rewards points - Airline Transfer Partner - Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines

I immediately transferred 176,000 points from Chase Ultimate Rewards (88,000 points per person), which posted later in the day. I paid around $33 in taxes to book business class on Singapore Airlines from Manila (MNL) to Los Angeles (LAX) with a layover in Singapore (SIN). The aircraft that we flew on was the new Airbus A350-900ULR, which Singapore Airlines has used for the nonstop SIN-LAX route they restarted in November 2018.

Singapore Airlines is the first airline to use this aircraft, so it was all the more exciting. The flight was estimated to take 15 hours and 10 minutes (we made it in 14 hours and 45 minutes). Yay!

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For the flight back to the US, it took a while for availability on award seats to open up, and I was searching United every day. After redeeming for seats on Singapore Airlines, I had about 80,000 points left in my Chase Ultimate Rewards account. When two business class seats on Asiana Airlines opened up (90,000 points per person), I took advantage of a United points sale (great timing!) and purchased 100,000 points for $2,257.50 to make the redemption. I booked the seats for a total of 180,000 points and $29 in taxes. I was excited knowing that the aircraft would be an Airbus A380!

Travel to Manila (MNL) Philippines from Los Angeles, California (LAX) using points and miles | Asiana Airlines
Los Angeles, USA – May 30, 2015: An airplane of Asiana Airlines (Boeing 777-200) landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

About a week from departure, I got a call from Asiana letting me know that they could not fit business class passengers due to an aircraft change from the Airbus A380 to a Boeing 777 (cutting business class seats by about 50%) and asked whether I was willing to take the next flight that left after 12 hours from my original flight.

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And… because of the inconvenience, that they would put me and my husband in First Class. Hell yeah!!!

I accepted the offer, of course. When would I ever fly First Class long haul? First Class seats on these flights cost 140,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per person at saver level, which isn’t worth it for me considering business class seats are only 90,000 points, and considering our lifestyle… points are a bit hard to come by.

Upon researching the first class seats, I found that they sold for about $10,000 per person, one way!

Total Cost

The round-trip cost of the trip was $2,319.50. Its retail cash value was around $25,000! My personal redemption perspective was that the cash outlay was what we would have paid minimum for round-trip premium economy on Singapore Airlines. This was our alternative if we were not able to find business class seats and/or did not have enough points. Of course, my personal valuation went through the roof with the upgrade to first class on Asiana.

Thoughts On Asiana First Class

The aircraft that we flew in was the original A380 (yay!). It was amazing! Enclosed suites (barely saw hubby during the 13-hour flight), caviar service, extremely large TV. I loved the “starry night” experience when the cabin lights were turned down for sleeping.

Thoughts On Singapore Airlines Business Class

As for business class on Singapore Airlines, it was first class “light” in my opinion. It met my expectations and more. It included a super wide seat, restaurant-grade meals (we pre-ordered through the airline’s massive Book the Cook cook menu), and great service.

How we value points and our strategies for redeeming them certainly vary from person to person, but we all try to optimize the travel experiences in our lives with points and miles. And, sometimes, with a little bit of luck, you’re able to strike gold with an upgrade to an already sweet deal! ☺ Los Angeles to Manila using points and miles!

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About the Author

Bryce Conway is the Founder of and Author of Takeoff: How to Travel the World for Next to Nothing and How to Fix Your Credit: Do it Once. Do it Right. Get on with Your Life. Bryce’s work has been featured in multiple national media outlets including Good Morning America, Money Magazine, and ABC Nightline News. Bryce created 10xTravel in 2014 and has been hanging out in the points and miles community since 2011....

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One Response to “Reader Success Story: First Class to Manila (MNL) and Back to Los Angeles (LAX) Using Points and Miles”

Jeff Carpenter

Sounds like a great trip. I go to the Philippines about 3 X per year and am always looking at good redemption values to get to Manila. There is only one airline that flys directly from LAX to MNL and that is Philippine Airlines. Which unfortunately is not a transfer partner with any other airline (soon to be ANA looks like). Your 14 hour flight was just to Singapore. You then had another flight to Manila I am assuming. I don’t believe Singapore airlines flys direct to Manila unfortunately. This is a long route to get to Manila. However for the redemption you got looks like a great deal flying first class on a business class redemption. Every place you mentioned in the Philippines are amazing places to go to.

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