We checked out all the airline booths offering this route. Since there was a long line at Philippine Airlines I inquired there first. Mnl-LAX-Mnl tickets cost over US$1300+. Anyways here's a rundown of the rates I got:
- Philippine Airlines (PAL) - US$1300+ but it's a direct flight, no stopovers
- Cathay Pacific - US$1000+ with a stopover in Hong Kong
- Delta Airlines - US$1000+ with a stopover in Narita
- EVA Air - US$1000+ with a stopover in Taipei
- Continental Airlines = US$860 all-in with stopovers in Guam and Honolulu
The nice lady at the Continental Airlines booth got us the shortest route available, which is 20+ hours from Manila to Los Angeles and 19+ hours going back from Los Angeles to Manila. We saved around US$2000 by opting not to take PAL's direct flight.
Anyways, I'll give you a rundown of what transpired during our Manila to Los Angeles route via Continental Airlines:
- We left Manila on flight CO934 headed for Guam at 11:25PM (Manila time). The flight is a little over 3 hours. We were supposed to have a 2-hour stopover but honestly you don't feel it because upon deplaning, you have to queue up for customs inspection. After customs, you're boarding your next flight already. We did not even have time for a snack in Guam. Good thing we had a complete meal on the plane. Guam was considered our port of entry to the United States so we were interviewed by immigration there. Good thing because there is no long line unlike the immigration counters at LAX. We were done with immigration in 5 minutes.
- We left Guam on flight CO2 (UA1001) headed for Honolulu at 6:30AM (Guam time). The flight is around 7 hours long. We were fed 3x this leg of the trip. We got one complete meal, an ice cream break, and a snack prior to landing. Each passenger also gets a personal screen with videos and games. Although we had a 4-hour stopover in Honolulu, we had to go through customs, claim our baggages at the carousel and then assemble them in a cart for transfer to the next plane. The claiming and transferring is actually a lot less tedious than it sounds. By the time we were done, we had time for a quick snack at the airport food court then we were off to Los Angeles.
- We left Honolulu on flight CO12 headed for Los Angeles at 8:35PM (Honolulu time). The flight is almost almost 6 hours long. Since it's considered a domestic flight there were no meals, only complimentary beverages of your choice. You would have to buy food in order to eat. I ended up buying a US$4.95 snack pack consisting of a cereal bar, crackers, cheese, and yogurt-covered raisins for my daughter. Good thing we ate at the Honolulu airport prior to boarding.
- We arrived in Los Angeles a little past 5am (Los Angeles time). Since we already went through immigrations in Guam, we were advised to go straight to the baggage claim area to get our luggage. After getting our luggage which took all of 5 minutes, we were home free. My mom and stepdad actually met us at baggage claim. If we had to go through immigrations at LAX it would've taken at least an hour before we can get to our luggage. Since we arrived very early in the morning, we actually had the whole day to look forward to. :)
Total travel time: 21+ hours
Okay, now that you know what to expect going there, I'd like to share what we went through coming back.
- We began our journey back to Manila by going to the domestic terminal of LAX since we were en route to Honolulu. You check yourself in at the Continental Airlines area via computer but there are staff to assist you. After check in, we proceeded to customs for inspection and then waited for boarding. Our flight Co3 (UA1009) left for Honolulu 9:50AM (Los Angeles time). Again since it's domestic, no free meals... just drinks. It's a 6-hour flight so I packed Lunchables, cereal bars, and other snacks for the kids in their backpacks. Don't forget to grab complimentary earphones for in-flight entertainment before boarding as this is the only chance you will get. This time our stopover is just an hour and a half. Fortunately, we didn't have to go through customs or claim our baggages anymore. We had time for a quick meal before boarding our next flight.
- We left Honolulu on flight CO1 (UA3927) to Guam by 2:15PM (Honolulu time). This flight is over 7 hours but you're well-fed and well-entertained. Each seat comes with a personal screen where you can watch videos, listen to music, and play video games. We landed in Guam and an hour and a half of stopover time. It was barely enough to eat a quick snack. Guam is also our official point of exit, but we did not need to pass through immigrations. A lady by the boarding gate will simply collect your immigration form and you're set.
- We left Guam on flight CO933 to Manila by 7:05PM (Guam time). The flight is approximately 3.5 hours long. We got one complete meal on this leg. We arrived in Manila 8:40PM. It was quick. When we deplaned, there was no line at immigration so we were done in 5 minutes. We proceeded to baggage claim and all our luggage came out in the order we checked them in... it also took all of 5 minutes, and we checked in 5 pieces too. Then we passed through customs in a jiffy, presented our baggage claim tags at the exit, and we were home free!
Total travel time: 19+ hours
Some tips and notes if taking Continental Airlines from Manila to Los Angeles and vice-versa:
- Pack snacks for the Honolulu - Los Angeles leg if you don't want to end up buying expensive airplane food.
- When offered free earphones, grab a pair. Later on, they will cost US$3 each. Or else bring your own earphones.
- Make sure you follow the baggage policies of Continental Airlines. They are very strict about it. Each passenger can bring 2 pieces of check-in baggages each weighing a maximum of 23kg or 50lbs each. You are allowed one piece of carry-on baggage weighing a maximum of 18kg or 40lbs. If you go over, you will be asked to unload or transfer stuff to other luggages or pay excess charges. This is for Mnl-LAX-Mnl, other routes have different requirements.
- Be at the airport early and don't dilly dally in between flights. Continental flights are incredibly prompt. They leave on-the-dot American time and they won't wait for you or let you in after the boarding gates close. Make sure you check-in and get to your boarding gate on time.
- Wear footwear that's easy to take off and put on. US Homeland Security requires you to submit your shoes for customs inspection. I wore rubber shoes on the way to Los Angeles and it was very inconvenient. I wore Fitflops en route to Manila, it was so much better for me.
- You can actually choose to stay in the places where you will stop over and spend a few days there for sightseeing, but it will cost US$75 per person to do so.
- On domestic flights (like Los Angeles to Honolulu) you only get a little over an hour's worth of Direct TV for free as a sample preview, you'll have to pay if you want it for the rest of the trip. I suggest bringing your own entertainment. My kids brought their iPods, PSP, and NDS so they won't get bored.
- Inflight service is excellent. Flight attendants are generally amiable and accommodating.
A few of our friends were actually skeptical when we decided to book with Continental Airlines because of the multiple stopovers. Hubby and I are completely satisfied and we both agree that if given the chance (i.e. cheap promo fare hehe), we would be more than happy to take this exact same route again. The stopovers were actually good opportunities for us to go around and stretch our legs. Everything was very prompt and systematic too.
For more information, log on to http://www.continental.com.
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