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GUM-HNL Island Hopper March 23, 2012

GUM-HNL Island Hopper March 23, 2012

Old Mar 25, 2012, 5:10 pm
  #1  
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GUM-HNL Island Hopper March 23, 2012

I've been to Guam several times and usually route directly through HNL or NRT. I finally decided to bite the bullet and do the Eastbound Island Hopper on my way home.

March 23, 2012 UA Flight 172 CO configured Boeing 737-800 N14235
UA awards 3,801 miles for this trip. The same as the direct route from GUM-HNL.
Schedule and stops
Guam (GUM) to Truk (TKK)
Depart 9:00am Arrive 10:40am
Layover: Truk (TKK) 0h 45m

Truk (TKK) to Pohnpei (PNI)
Depart 11:25am Arrive 1:38pm
Layover: Pohnpei (PNI) 0h 47m

Pohnpei (PNI) to Kosrae (KSA)
Depart 2:25pm Arrive 3:26pm
Layover: Kosrae (KSA) 0h 39m

Kosrae (KSA) to Kwajalein (KWA)
Depart 4:05pm Arrive 6:11pm
Layover: Kwajalein (KWA) 0h 49m

Kwajalein (KWA) to Majuro (MAJ)
Depart 7:00pm Arrive 7:53pm
Layover: Majuro (MAJ) 0h 52m

Majuro (MAJ) to Honolulu (HNL)
Depart 8:45pm Arrive 3:30am

Total trip time: 14h 30m

I read on other trip reports that the right side of the plane was best to see the islands and reserved seat 30F when I bought the ticket. At OLCI I opted to buy exit row seat 20A because of the extra legroom. This proved to be a good idea as it was a cluster back there. And I’m 6’3” and 240 lbs and the flight was 14-1/2 hours after all plus I was fighting off a cold I caught in Guam.

I arrived at the airport at 6:15 AM to turn in my rental car. After 10 minutes I was upstairs at the UA ticket counter. Being *A Gold I used the Elite Access counter to check my bags. The ticket agent told me I'd have access to the United Club, which I already knew. As I was dropping off my bags to the TSA she came running over and said I wouldn't get to access the Club because it's only for UA elites. I told her to double check her info and thanked her for letting me know and went on my way. Surprisingly there was no one else in line for security so I zoomed through the WTMD and was in the Club in minutes. The Guam club is a little dated, but that’s to be expected when you’re in Guam.

Got to gate at 8:15 and at 8:20 the GA called all elites and I ended up being the first to board. I sat down and the FA asked me where I was heading. She was shocked when I told her I was going all the way to HNL. Then told me I was crazy for not taking the direct flight. I agreed with her and told her I was doing the Island Hopper for the experience. I read in other TRs that many pax on this flight either didn’t understand or care about seat assignments. I noticed this to be true in the back, another reason I was glad I moved up to the exit row. Two FAs and a GA spent 10 minutes getting the pax seated. Boarding was completed at 8:50 for an on time push back. I was lucky as there was no one seated in 20B and we headed out to runway 6R.

The breakfast served in Y was a lukewarm ham, egg and cheese bagel sandwich served with watermelon, honey melon and apple juice.



Approaching Chuuk (Truk)


Chuuk Airport errr landing strip


We landed in Chuuk at 10:35. The runway was so short the pilot had to hit the brakes really hard. We stopped at the end of the runway and made a U-turn. There are no taxiways. Since the runways at these atolls are so short, the fire and rescue trucks are at the ready when the planes land and take off. The pax in the ABC seats were told to deplane with our bags for a security check. I intended to deplane anyway.

Making a U-turn after landing


It was very hot in Chuuk and the terminal had no A/C or clean restrooms. :-(



Chuuk baggage cart

Folks waiting for inbound pax


Reboarded at 11:10 and we were underway at 11:25 with no one in seat 20B.

We arrived in Pohnpei at 1:29 pm. It was a hard landing and the pilot really stepped on the brakes and we again used the entire length of the runway before burning a U. Again pax on the left side were required to deplane for the security inspection.

The terminal at Pohnpei was the best of the entire trip. It had A/C and relatively clean restrooms.

Arriving in Pohnpei






Not a lot of people get this view of the plane.



Back on plane at 2:05 with a 2:25 departure and no one in 20B or 20C.

Will complete this TR later…………

Last edited by Michael El; Mar 26, 2012 at 11:17 pm
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Old Mar 25, 2012, 5:27 pm
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Thanks very much for this report, love it. This trip is firmly on my to-do list.
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Old Mar 25, 2012, 7:53 pm
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I neglected to mention the crew and the plane earlier. Since the crew would not change the entire trip, there were two captains, one first officer, five FAs and an aircraft mechanic. The pilots rotated rest breaks in seat 1A during the trip. Also this particular 738 was substituted for the ex-Continental Micronesia 738 that normally runs this route.

TR Continued….

It was cloudy all of the way to Kosrae but we arrived early. This was the scariest landing of the trip. We slammed down hard on the right gear and the pilot hit the brakes so hard I was pushed forward in my seat. No one was required to deplane for a security inspection in Kosrae, but most of us did. There was a local gal in the terminal selling shell jewelry and dried banana chips. They must be good as the pilots bought some. I bought 3 shell bracelets. OMG there was no security except an unarmed cop and I saw the GA wand a local pax. Reboarded at 3:49 and we were airborne at 4:04. No one in seats B or C.

Landing in Kosrae













They fed us a Jam sandwich en route to Kwajalein. It was a cold dry hamburger bun with turkey slices jammed inside. Luckily it came with a pack of mustard or it would have been super dry. Also had a package of cheese n crackers and Oreos.

Arrived in Kwajalein at 6:00 and it was a smooth landing on a pretty long runway. Since Kwajalein is a military location, anyone not disembarking there had to stay onboard. There were what looked like armed civilian guards on the tarmac. Two airline employees came onboard to do a security check of just Y. We had to remove all of our items from the overhead bins and tell them they belonged to us otherwise they'd remove them. All of us in the exit rows had to show them our BPs. It was announced that the flight would be completely full out of Kwajalein. Departed at 7:10 PM, about 10 minutes late, and it's now completely dark and someone's in seat 20C. :-(

Landing in Kwajalein





Landed in Majuro at 7:54 PM. Air conditioned terminal that had a snack bar with cold beer and cocktails. Nasty bathroom with no running water to wash hands. I re boarded at 8:25 PM because there were a lot of people getting on in Majuro. I thought I was going to have an open seat next to me when the last person on, a big fellow, sat in 20B. His traveling companion, who I believe was his mother, was in 20D but wouldn't trade with me. Too bad as there was a cutie from Australia in 20E. We got underway at 8:50.

They served a pasta dish or a gross roast beef with mashed potatoes. You can tell which one I had. The 4 + hours was tough as the big guy bumped me every time I dozed off.







We landed in HNL 15 minutes early. It took them over an hour to get the bags to the baggage claim. So much for the orange priority handling tags as they were last out. Clearing Immigration and Customs was a piece of cake. CO used to have agents to take the luggage for transiting pax. Well not anymore. We had to tote our bags down to the other end of the airport to get them inspected by the Dept. of Ag who didn’t start until 5:00 AM. Then we rechecked them at the UA ticket counter. Then TSA :-( and I was in the United Club at 5:16 AM.

This trip was worth doing to check it off of my bucket list, but I wouldn’t do it again unless I had to stop on one of the islands. It did give me a greater appreciation for the many blessings I have in my life.

Last edited by Michael El; Mar 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm
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Old Mar 25, 2012, 11:29 pm
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great report. brings back many memories. the flight attendants asked me the same question they asked you when you boarded in GUM, but I told them that if they could do it, so could I.

of course by the time you reached kosrae, you understood why the pilots had to put the plane down hard, being that the runways are short and all. although I do believe that Pohnpei is undergoing a runway extension. if you're a regular on those flights though, it's all part of the experience. did you know that all of the solid food is loaded at the point of origin (GUM or HNL), and the only items loaded at other ports are ice, drinks, and salted snacks. I've no idea how that works. I also understood that Majuro airport was supposed to undergo renovations, but I guess that did not proceed as planned.
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Old Mar 26, 2012, 1:46 am
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Thanx for posting
I will actually do it in June from the other side i mean HNL-GUM so it comes perfectly to me.
And great photos too
Alberto
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Old Mar 26, 2012, 2:03 am
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Thanks for sharing. Put on my todo list.
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Old Mar 26, 2012, 10:53 am
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Thanks for the detailed trip report and wonderful photos!

Was this an award ticket or a paid ticket?
If the latter, could you share how much you paid?

I'd like to follow your exact routing sometime.
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Old Mar 26, 2012, 11:54 am
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Originally Posted by mistik321
Thanks for the detailed trip report and wonderful photos!

Was this an award ticket or a paid ticket?
If the latter, could you share how much you paid?

I'd like to follow your exact routing sometime.
It was a paid Y ticket because I had business in Guam and flew the most direct route inbound. The total was $1,900 round trip. Other TRs recommend doing HNL-GUM Island Hopper so you see each island in the daytime. It leaves HNL at 5:30 AM M-W-F. The Wednesday flight skips Kosrae.
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Old Mar 26, 2012, 1:29 pm
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Thank you Michael El.

I'll have to call United live.
Ugh, I can't force this GUM-HNL routing on united.com (did a search: airports GUM to MAJ, one way, flexible dates...).

re: Wednesday GUM-HNL routing which skips Kosrae.

Is there still a stop at Kwajelein?

Were the crew very strict about no photos? I'd like to snap a photo of (at least) the airport sign. But of course, I don't want to get in ANY trouble with the US military or the airline crew whatsoever!!!

In the bestselling book Unbroken, that island (amongst many) was pretty harrowing for WWII POWs.
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Old Mar 26, 2012, 2:25 pm
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In May my 16yo son and I are doing the Island Hopper HNL-GUM then connecting on to ROR for a week of R&R. I'm also curious about taking photos while going through the intermediate island airports - any issues?
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Old Mar 26, 2012, 2:45 pm
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Originally Posted by mistik321
re: Wednesday GUM-HNL routing which skips Kosrae.

Is there still a stop at Kwajelein?

Were the crew very strict about no photos? I'd like to snap a photo of (at least) the airport sign. But of course, I don't want to get in ANY trouble with the US military or the airline crew whatsoever!!!
Yes it stops in Kwajalein M-W-F both ways.

If the FBI shows up because of my photos, I'll let you know.


Originally Posted by El Cochinito
In May my 16yo son and I are doing the Island Hopper HNL-GUM then connecting on to ROR for a week of R&R. I'm also curious about taking photos while going through the intermediate island airports - any issues?
As I recall there were no announcements regarding restrictions on photography at any of the stops. Although a digital camera is considered an electronic device.
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Old Mar 27, 2012, 5:42 am
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Very nice, I did this trip over 20 yrs ago when CO was still flying the speical 727. I flew from HNL to GUM, I remember flying to amilitary base, we had to close all the shades (10 minutes before landing), and once the door opened, a armed guard entered the front galley, and if you weren't getting off the plane you didn't move (kepted seated), once everbody who was getting off the plane was off, they boarded the new pax's. The whole while one engine was running to run the A/C. Once everybody was boarded, guard left, door closed, engines started, and off we were go, the whole stop was under 30 minutes. we couldn't open the shades for about 10 minutes after take off. I remember 3 meal serviced on that route, it was roughly 14 hrs. I remember one island had a shell runway, some runways were very short, the 727 had extra flap controls to allow it to land and take off from these short runways.

I agree, it is an experience that should be done once.

I flew from guam to Manila to Hong Kong to HNL to LAX to SAN. Just thinkk of all those FF miles I would have gotten back then.
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Old Mar 27, 2012, 1:30 pm
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Originally Posted by SimonRTW
Thanks very much for this report, love it. This trip is firmly on my to-do list.
+1

Thanks for sharing the report.

Do they honor elite boarding at each stop (ie by zones)? I didn't see a separate elite boarding line?
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Old Mar 27, 2012, 1:39 pm
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Originally Posted by warreng24
Do they honor elite boarding at each stop (ie by zones)? I didn't see a separate elite boarding line?
Surprisingly yes they do follow the same UA boarding process you'd find Stateside. You can sort of see the signs and lanes in some of my photos above.
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Old Mar 27, 2012, 2:39 pm
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Thanks Michael for the great report and pix. The wife and I are doing the Island Hopper westbound in November on a Wed so we'll be one island short. Obviously it makes for a long day but a fascinating one I believe, as proven by your pictures and trip report.

If you had to choose the best seat on the flight, what would you suggest? For photos obviously.

For the question about booking, I booked on the old CO site where you could force the route. Under the new regime it's probably a phone call to do it. On price, we paid about $2500 pp from ORD for a one week stopover in HNL, the island hopper, three day stopover in GUM (to take a look at SPN where my Dad was in WWII) and a two week stopover in MNLdirect back to ORD from MNL. Seemed like a reasonable price since it includes the GUM/SPN/GUM also.

Thanks again for the great report.
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