DALLAS — On October 29, United Airlines (UA) became the first carrier to offer nonstop flights from the Continental U.S. to the Philippines—from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila. The new flight is part of UA’s expansion in Asia, which includes Hong Kong and Taipei.
The San Francisco-Manila route boasts an enormous market size, with approximately 410,000 roundtrip passengers recorded in 2019. With an average of 561 passengers traveling daily in each direction, it makes sense for UA to open the frequency. After Los Angeles, San Francisco holds the distinction of being Manila’s second most popular North American market, further highlighting the route’s significance to travelers.
United’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, the largest in its fleet, will operate the daily nonstop route that covers 6,987 miles (11,244 km). The new Triple Seven route will join its links to MNL from Guam Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (GUM) and Palau Roman Tmetuchl International Airport (ROR). The California-Philippines nonstop will follow the following schedule:
- SFO to MNL: UA191, 00:35-06:50+1 (15h 15m block time)
- MNL to SFO: UA190, 09:55-07:20 (12h 25m; same day arrival)
It is worth noting that UA is not the first US airline to fly nonstop to the capital of the Southeast Asian archipelagic country. Hawaiian Airlines (HA) flew from Honolulu to Manila for several years.
United’s Transpacific Expansion
San Franciso International Airport also gained a new daily service to Taipei Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), bringing the frequency of this service to two per day. UA is currently the only US carrier to fly directly to the Northern Taiwanese facility.
Speaking of the new service last July, Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of global network planning and alliances, said, “United is the flag carrier of the US, and we are excited to bring this new service to Manila while expanding access to Hong Kong, Taipei, and Tokyo.”
United Airlines also commenced a new daily service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) on October 28. The airline’s Boeing 787-9s service the route, bringing the total number of daily flights to HKG to three, one from LAX and two from SFO.
Meanwhile, the carrier resumed daily service between LAX and Tokyo (NRT), joining its current link to Tokyo (HND). A Boeing 787-10 will operate the route.
With all the routes approved, UA will offer 15 international destinations across the Pacific for the winter 2023–24 season. In other words, the airline’s transpacific network will be 50% larger than all other US carriers combined, excluding flights to mainland China.
History of the San Francisco-Manila Connection
It is worth noting that on November 22, 1935, Pam Am’s Martin M-130 Flying Boat, christened “The China Clipper,” left San Francisco, carrying a load of mail, and arrived in the Philippine capital seven days later. The China Clipper only carried mail east of Honolulu; company personnel and cargo, plus some mail, were carried to the other islands.
Pan Am successfully completed the journey from Alameda, an island located in San Francisco Bay in California, to Manila in just six days. The flight revolutionized travel between the two cities; it shortened the travel time of the 8,000-mile route, which previously took over two weeks by fast ship.
With concrete evidence of the route’s feasibility, Pan Am wasted no time in initiating plans for transpacific passenger service. 88 years later, UA continues that legacy.
Featured image: N2352U, United Airlines, Boeing 777-300ER (B77W), SFO KSFO. Photo: Rohan Ramalingam/Airways