Another Fun Fifth Freedom Flight From The US to Canada

Filed Under: Other Airlines

I love a good fifth freedom flight. For those of you not familiar with fifth freedom routes, it’s when an airline from a third country operates a flight between two other countries.

For example, unarguably the most glamorous fifth freedom flight within North America is Cathay Pacific’s flight between New York JFK and Vancouver. The flight continues to Hong Kong, though you can also book the flight exclusively between New York and Vancouver.

The flight offers full longhaul international service, from bedding to Krug.

Krug on a flight within North America? Awesome!

It’s a great way to experience Cathay Pacific first class on a short flight (and I have to say it was an especially fun way to fly between the east and west coast when I lived in Seattle).

Cathay Pacific first class seat in bed mode

The only “catch” on the route is the flight times, given that it’s a redeye in both directions. The flight operates with the following schedule:

CX888 Vancouver to New York departing 10:50PM arriving 7:00AM (+1 day)
CX889 New York to Vancouver departing 10:10PM arriving 1:00AM (+1 day)

The eastbound flight is practical for connections in both directions, while the westbound flight is only practical if terminating your travels in Vancouver.

Interestingly Cathay Pacific is the only airline that presently flies nonstop between Vancouver and New York JFK.

However, they’ll soon have some competition, No, not from Air Canada or United or JetBlue, but rather from… Philippine Airlines!

As of March 15, 2015, Philippine Airlines will be launching 4x weekly service between Manila and New York, which will route via Vancouver.


As you’d expect, they’ll sell you tickets between Vancouver and New York. The flight will operate with the following schedule:

PR126 Vancouver to New York departing 10:50PM arriving 7:00AM (+1 day)
PR127 New York to Vancouver departing 11:00AM arriving 1:50PM

Hilariously, they have exactly the same schedule as Cathay Pacific on the eastbound flight. However, they do a much tighter turn in New York, and it’s a daytime flight on the return (which makes sense, given that they’re using the same plane for the turn, while Cathay Pacific doesn’t).

I can’t help but think that they’re a bit aspirational with their pricing, given that their published business class fare is 50% more than Cathay Pacific’s.


Cathay Pacific has fully flat reverse herringbone seats with direct aisle access in business class, while Philippine Airlines has recliners straight out of the early 90s.

Cathay Pacific’s reverse herringbone business class seat

Philippine Airlines partners with both ANA Mileage Club and Etihad Guest, though neither have especially compelling redemption values for travel on this route (ANA charges 63,000 miles roundtrip in business class).

ANA Mileage Club’s non-Star Alliance partners

Bottom line

Is this route useful for those looking to redeem miles? Probably not. Do I find it fascinating? Absolutely. I think it’s especially funny that the flight operates with an identical schedule to Cathay Pacific in one direction. And I suppose there’s some merit to the westbound flight if not connecting, given that it’s a daytime flight.

I sure do love routes like this!

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)


  1. Hi Lucky,

    I started reading your blog in 2013. Always great posts. Philippine Airlines could be an interesting option. However, they still use angle flat seats for business class. Also, if redeeming through their frequent flier program (Mabuhay Miles) is difficult. There currently is no option for on-line redemptions. I am not sure how airline partners ANA and Etihad deal with Philippine Airline redemption for their own members.

  2. I think PAL will use their brand new 777s which have fully flat business class seats in this route. Also, the have phased out their old 747s which carries the angled-flat seats. I believe you featured that in your blog too.

  3. I have flown many times with PAL (within Asia) and for me they are the best Philippine airline (not saying much when your biggest competition is Cebu Pacific), but there is no comparison between Cathay and PAL. I don’t think there is much of a market for premium class traveling in the Philippines hence the lower quality product. However, I did find the FA’s to all be very warm and friendly.

  4. PAL is using their new 777s for this the MNL-YVR-JFK route. Its business class is 2-3-2 not of the early 90s recliner kind; but similar to EK or TK business class in its 777s.

  5. I’ve only flown PAL twice in my life and I agree with William Kim that the soft product was great. I do know PAL normally has pretty good sales in biz class so I’ll probably wait to see those rather than transferring points to EY or ANA to redeem on this route.

  6. Joey mentioned that I forgot. Their cost are quite low. I have flown their 777’s and it is almost identical to American’s 777-200. Not sure about now, but a year ago it was around $570 RT from MNL-BKK (Business Class) which was half the price of Cathay.or Thai Airways.

  7. As others have said, IIRC PAL uses B773 on these flights to YVR for a while now and that’s what you’ll fly to JFK.

  8. “Interestingly Cathay Pacific is the only airline that presently flies nonstop between Vancouver and New York JFK.”

    I’m sure that you’ve done your homework, but just a quick note: DL flies JFK-YVR seasonally, and AC connects YVR with EWR and UA does it seasonally.

  9. PAL will be flying their old A340 to New York, not the newer B777, you can verify on their web site. The seats are more angled-flat than old-style recliner, I have reviewed them here
    The price must be an error – the flight from Manila to JFK RT in business is available for $3500 – PAL tends to be significantly cheaper than Cathay wherever they compete. Once they get their act together on the new route, I’d bet the price will drop…

  10. I recently flew PR A330 Y from MNL-HKG and would not do it again. The 3-3-3 was very narrow and uncomfortable.

  11. I don’t know much about PAL, but their press release about this says they’ll be flying A340s with lie-flat business class on this route. A search on Kayak seems to confirm this.

  12. I’ve actually heard that PAL will be using their A343’s on this route. And these are the A343’s that are leased from Iberia when PAL was still under Category 2 and couldn’t use their 777’s to the US. Now that PAL is up to Category 1, they use their 777’s to LAX, SFO, and YVR, but unfortunately not on the flight that continues to JFK. And think about the passengers in economy too! They don’t even have personal TV’s (much less working overhead TV’s and functional headphone jacks).

    And I agree about the difficulty in redeeming miles. I fly PAL nearly every year from and to LAX and thus am a member of Mabuhay Miles, but sometimes I feel the miles are going to waste because they can’t be used anywhere else, and quite frankly I’m getting bored of PAL and want to try another airline to the Philippines. Their discrepancy in pricing is always like that, though, simply because they provide the convenience of a non-stop (or at least, a quick one-stop flight) from North America to the Philippines and want to take advantage of those (especially the elderly) who don’t want to connect elsewhere.

    However, Lucky, if you do decide to try it out, I would love to hear your review about Philippine Airlines! 😛

  13. I think this means the old (MNL)-YVR-LAS option on Philippines is toast!! Perhaps JFK is more profitable at these prices.

  14. I am surprised we don’t see many more airlines run 5th freedom flights. Another thing I don’t understand is why CX does not go transpolar like I want to say UA does on EWR-HKG At least I think UA does or at least did

  15. No Lucky, they will no longer intend to use their A340s to New York. On the inaugural flight to New York on March 15 using the B777-300ER, the COO said that they will be using their flagship B777s as well, since the flight to Vancouver is also operated by the same aircraft. On the Manila-London route, they used to deploy their B777s, but got downgraded to ex-Iberia A340s, since the London route is their only unprofitable route (kinda ironic, since the A340 is a gas-guzzler, and given that the aircraft is already old), and because their focus is the North American market. Their B777s don’t feature recliner type business class seats, but lie-flat shell type seats in 2-3-2 layout. On their A340s, they’ve retained the business class seats of Iberia, also lie-flat shell type seats, with the signature orange color of Iberia. Ironically, on their new A330s, the business class seats are full-flat, and they are only used for regional international flights. Yet on their long-haul flights, they use lie-flat seats. The recliner-type business class seats you mentioned were from PAL’s old A340s, which were all already retired last year. Did you refer to SeatGuru? I guess it was not updated. My father tried their A340 business class to London recently. The hard product was not good, but the soft product was not bad. He was served Piper-Hiedsieck NV champagne, contrary to what I’ve read from some comments that they serve “supermarket sparkling wine.” The seats did feature personal IFEs, but not on economy. Just imagine flying on those seats for 15 hours with no entertainment whatsoever. The IFE content was not extensive, so he was provided with an iPad but the connection was super slow. On the return trip, PAL uses the Malaysia Airlines lounge at Heathrow T4. But the best part of the deal was that the round-trip ticket to London was only USD1,472. And I agree with you, Cathay Pacific’s business class is much better than PAL’s. I tried it twice to Hong Kong, first the old herringbone long-haul business class on the 747-400, and the second the new regional business class on their 777-300. The FAs had that attentive character incomparable to PAL, the food service was more upscale, and I liked Billecart-Salmon NV champagne better than Piper Heidsieck. :))) For me, PAL has the most inconsistent business class hard product.

  16. i just flew on PAL for my round trip vacation to MNL this may-june. both ways they used their old a340-300s which have NO personal entertainments in each seat.
    the flight to mnl stopped over at vancouver to unload and load canada passengers but us manila bound passengers were expecting to unboard also to their holding area but we were advised not to.

    it became crazy when the cleaners came in while we were on board. some of us needed to go the bathrooms and the cleaners were in there and also going back and forth the aisles. we would have liked to have gotten off the plane to stretch and freshen up in a normal bathroom after a 6yr flight from jfk and before doing another 13hr to manila. as it happened we were on the plane the whole time for 21-22hrs total. and with no entertainment!

    also they didnt announce everytime they would show a movie on their drop down screens so we werent able to catch the beginning of the movie every time.

    on the way back i guess it was the same plane, no personal entertainments but at least we were let off at vancouver’s holding area to freshen up and stretch.

    the food was nothing to write home about but it was ok. i guess because im filipino and knows what a real pinoy caldereta tastes like compared to what they served onboard.

    bottom line i wouldnt take PAL again from jfk to mnl unless they used newer planes with personal entertainments in each seat, and if they let mnl bound passengers unboard to the canada holding areas while they freshen up the plane.

  17. Hey, I booked this flight all the way to the Philippines. I am no longer Interested in going to Manila. Will I be able to exit in Vancouver? Can they stop me from getting off?

    I will not have luggage.

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