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The United Island Hopper via Honolulu & Kauai, Hawaii, USA via Alaska First Class

The United Island Hopper via Honolulu & Kauai, Hawaii, USA via Alaska First Class

Old Mar 7, 20, 11:42 am
  #1  
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Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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The United Island Hopper via Honolulu & Kauai, Hawaii, USA via Alaska First Class

The United Island Hopper, with Honolulu and Kauai, Hawaii, USA via Alaska First Class


YVR-SEA-HNL (Alaska Mileage Plan Companion Fare 2 for 1)
HNL-MAJ-KWA-PNI-TKK-GUM “The Island Hopper” (United Mileage Plus Award)
GUM-HNL (United Mileage Plus Award)
HNL-LIH (paid)
LIH-SEA-YVR (Alaska Mileage Plus Companion Fare 2 for 1)






Preparation:

In the fall of 2019, MrsWT73 mandated a winter holiday to get out of Vancouver’s wet (and unusually this year, snowy) weather. We had previously made good use of our Alaska Companion Fares for the past 4 years. Thanks to MrsWT73’s Alaska MVP Gold status, we’ve also made good use of First Class upgradable fare purchases. With no set destination in mind for these certificates, I eventually came up with a crazy idea of doing the United Island Hopper nested within an Alaska fare to Hawaii. Unlike these other travel bloggers in their twenties, I actually have a full time career that comes with a schedule, parenting responsibilities and other commitments that don’t make it so easy to undertake in such unusually crazy trips. With little convincing, MrsWT73 gave me a 36 hour kitchen pass away from the holiday to do the UA Island Hopper while she stayed on in Honolulu relaxing and taking in some sun.

For the Alaska Portion, I searched for available “U” space using Expert Flyer, eventually finding seats on the afternoon flight leaving Seattle for Honolulu. The outbound had a 5 hour layover in Seattle, but we had American Express Centurion Lounge access so that dead time was taken care of as comfortably as possible. For the return, we managed to find seats out of Lihue back to Seattle on the overnight with a short 2 hour layover back home to Vancouver, Canada. We used an Alaska 2 for 1 companion fare offer from the Canadian Alaska Airlines Mastercard and immediately confirmed ourselves into First Class at the time of booking on an upgradable fare.

I booked the UA Island Hopper using United Airlines Mileage Plus points transferred in from Marriott Bonvoy. Thanks to a generous relationship between the two, 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points became 55,000 United Mileage Plus points with an additional 17,500 UA miles later awarded as a bonus for a total of 72,500 United Mileage Plus points transferred. There was ample economy award availability on this route and I booked the island hopper for 27,500 saver economy reward miles at fixed pricing levels before United switched to dynamic pricing. I booked the return on the non stop United B777-2 service from Guam back to Honolulu the next day. The economy award came to 55,000 United Mileage Plus miles and $40 CAD in taxes and fees. The revenue price for the ticket was listed at $2,934.54 USD making an award redemption an excellent value. I further secured an Economy Plus seat on the Hopper segment for $59 for the 14 hours. I noticed some variability in the Economy Plus pricing with amounts ranging as low as $59, all the way up to $114 for the same routing. Although as a United Silver, I had access to free Economy Plus at check in, I didn’t fancy being shut out of a window seat for the day. It turns out this was a wise move as there were only a few seats in the middle left on my date. Lastly, although the full 5 stop island hopper is only available 2 days a week, I ended up on the 4 stop hopper for schedule purposes, skipping the Kosrae stop in the Federated States of Micronesia. I would have loved to have done all 5 stops, but I also wanted to actually have a restful holiday and not be backtracking all over the place to get back to Honolulu to start the Hopper on one of the 5 stop trips. As a result, I took the shorter version, which was more than enough to experience it. This, I might add, is coming from the perspective of someone who is nearing the million mile mark for lifetime “tail in seat” miles flown and a regular consumer of flown miles for work purposes all throughout sparse Canada. I suppose I could have stopped over on the Micronesia islands for a day or two but also just opted for an out and back return.



In this Report:

Alaska Airlines: Vancouver - Seattle
Alaska Airlines: Seattle - Honolulu
Sheraton Waikiki
United Airlines Island Hopper: Honolulu - Majuro
United Airlines Island Hopper: Majuro - Kwajalein
United Airlines Island Hopper: Kwajalein - Pohnpei
United Airlines Island Hopper: Pohnpei - Trukk
United Airlines Island Hopper: Truk - Agana Guam
Sheraton Laguna Guam
Sagan Bisita Lounge, Guam
United Airlines: Guam - Honolulu
Hawaiian Airlines Plumeria Lounge, Honolulu
Hawaiian Airlines: Honolulu - Kauai
Sheraton Kauai Resort
Kauai
Alaska Airlines: Lihue - Seattle
Alaska Airlines: Seattle - Vancouver


Links to my previous reports:

Peggy’s Cove & Halifax & Canada’ National Remembrance Day via Air Canada Business, November 2019
Chasing Legends In Ireland, London and Portugal via Tap Portugal and British Airways Business Class, Sept 2019
Melbourne, The Gold Coast & Whitsundays Great Barrier Reef via Qantas First Class, Aug 2019
Whale Sharks, Tacos and Baja California via Alaska First Class, April 2019
Fried Chicken, CNN and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia, USA via United First, April 2019
Spring Break in Park City, Utah, USA via Alaska Airlines, March 2019
Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas Market) Villages in Germany via British Airways and Lufthansa First Class, Dec 2018
Iceland, Spain & Morocco via IcelandAir Business Class & British Airways First Class, Sept 2018
East Africa: Tanzania and Seychelles via Air Canada & Turkish Airlines Business Class June 2018
Spring Break with WT73jr at Vail Colorado, USA via Alaska Airlines. March 2018
Polyensia Part II: Easter Island, Chile & Mexico City, Mexico via LATAM Business Class. Sept 2017
Summer is a state of mind; Kaanapali, Maui, via Alaska Airlines with my 13 yr old son, August 2017
Fiji, New Zealand and French Polynesia via Fiji Airways, Air New Zealand and Air Tahiti Nui Business Class, June 2017
Mileage Running to New York via Delta Airlines First Class for Alaska MVP Status, Dec 2016
Havana and Varadero Cuba via Westjet Holidays from Canada, Nov 2016
Malta (and the island of Gozo), Venice, Italy and Oktoberfest in Munich, via Air France Business Class, Sept 2016
South Africa, Namibia, Victoria Falls, Mauritius & the UAE via Emirates First, Qatar & South African Airways Business, April 2016
Pearl Harbor, The First Lady of Waikiki and Wailea, Hawaii via Alaska Airlines First Class, January 2016
Dodging Volcanic Ash: A family trip to Bali / Singapore with my 11 year old via Asiana, KLM and JAL Business, July 2015
RTW#3 (J): Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling India’s Golden Triangle via Air Canada, Asiana Singapore, Air India and Turkish Airlines Business, May 2015
Experiencing flying as a "Non-Rev", Australia Wine and Beaches via Air Canada and Qantas Business, November 2014
Alaska Airlines First Class to Las Vegas, and a stay in the Aria Sky Suites “Penthouse” via Alaska Airlines First Class, August 2014
Family trip to Kenora Lake of the Woods Ontario via Air Canada Business Class. August 2014
Cathay Pacific First Class to New York, a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum & 4 days of eating in NYC, May 2014
RTW #2 The Khors of Oman via Japan, Poland & the UAE via ANA, Thai, Lufthansa Business Class, April 2014
South Africa, Safari in Maasai Mara Kenya, & Mauritius via South African Airways, Swiss and Air Canada Business Class, Nov 2013
A family trip to Westin Playa Conchal, Liberia Costa Rica via United Airlines, Aug 2013
Buried Treasure: UAE Empty Quarter and Beyond to Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives via United and Etihad Airlines, Nov 2012
RTW #1(F) The Time Share Presentation: Spain / China / Thailand via Asiana, Thai and Lufthansa First Class, May 2012
A visit to Macchu Picchu and Valle Nevado, Peru and Chile via Air Canada Business Class, Sept 2011
Travel after the Revolution of January 25, 2011. Egypt via Egypt Air, May 2011
A Step Back in Time: The Twilight of Burma, a visit to Myanmar via Silk Airways, Sept 2010

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Jun 6, 20 at 12:26 pm
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Old Mar 7, 20, 11:46 am
  #2  
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Alaska Airlines
AS 2044 – First Class (U)
YVR-SEA (Vancouver International Airport – SeaTac International Airport)
January 27, 2020
11:40 AM – 12:43 PM
Booked: Embraer 175
Flown: Embraer 175


Being a noon departure, we had an easier get away from the house. We had a spin through the ever worn for wear Plaza Premium Lounge in the YVR Transborder area. The place is really starting to look quite shabby with seat stains and chips out of tables, counters and furniture. It was breakfast for me with some quick scrambled eggs, white toast and bacon. Most interestingly enough was that the Sal Y Limon Mexican Bar has finally finished construction across from Starbucks and is open for those departing on afternoon flights in the Transborder area.





While we were in the lounge, I checked on today’s flight situation and the Seattle Honolulu flight was totally oversold. Hawaii is a popular place to get to in the winter!



We headed down to Gate 90. The short Alaska flights to and from Seattle have since been upgraded to Embraer 175 over the older Dash 8’s. This meant we actually had a gate to board from, instead of a walk out to the apron. It also meant the disappearance of Alaska’s “A La Carte” self service gate check shelf.





We boarded after children, military and those needing extra time to board. The Embraer product is much more comfortable than the Dash 8 with an actual business class seat in a 1 – 2 configuration up front. Once on board, there was a small Dasani water waiting for us at the seat.





There isn’t usually service on the short 30 minute flights but perhaps a change with the upgraded equipment, there is also a change in process. Today, we were offered a choice of beverage. Today was fresh brewed coffee with a free offer of a Bailey’s upgrade. Being the start to a holiday, why not? It was better than the offer of Dasani water and nothing else.



We were underway quickly behind an Air Canada B787 Dreamliner on runway 08R out of grey Vancouver for the 28 minute flight down to Seattle.





We eventually were shuttled over to the C Gates in Seattle. We had a 5 hour layover which we ended up killing off at the American Express Centurion Lounge. Thanks to connecting boarding passes, we were admitted without a wait at the lounge today. It helped that we were after the bank of morning flights and well before the bank of evening flights. Being that we’ve been through here before without many changes, I didn’t bother taking any new photographs. Well, aside that I decided to have one of these killer beverages earlier than noon…



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Old Mar 7, 20, 11:57 am
  #3  
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Alaska Airlines
AS 853 – First Class (U)
SEA – HNL (SeaTac International Airport - Honolulu)
January 27, 2020
5:45 PM – 10:05 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800


At about T-60, we packed up from the Centurion Lounge over in the B Gates and started the walk and train over to the N Gates. We made an attempt to get into the brand new Alaska Lounge for our second visit but Alaska doesn’t recognize upgraded First Class space (or U fares) as valid for entry in Alaska Lounge, even on international itineraries unlike United. With only 30 minutes left prior to boarding, we waited out the rest of the time at Gate N13.



We boarded in a busy boarding group and settled into Seat 1A and 1C. We had one of the older “original” aircraft today with the aboriginal tapestry wall liner. Waiting at the seat was the usual bottle of Dasani water and an Alaska branded blanket.











It was a bit of a process getting going today with several non rev’s coming on at the last minute, followed by some seat swaps. Since we were seated in 1A and 1C, we had a prime view of all of this. During this time, a pre-departure beverage was offered of sparkling mai tai which was premixed from a tetra pack. The Alaska Pre-Departure Beverage seems to be hit and miss unlike the other major US carriers. I certainly don't say no when it's offered...



We had the usual departure flight time announcements of 5 hours and 55 minutes flying time. We settled in with the menus for the evening as we departed on runway 34/16 with minimal wait.







We had a bumpy ride out with expected turbulence announced for the first 2 hours of the flight. Indeed, it was slow going and the service did not start until 7:30 PM or an hour and forty five minutes into the flight.

We started with a limp towel service, followed by a drink service. I asked for the chardonnay which was advertised as Browns’ but I suspect was something else entirely since it tasted different from the Browns' that we usually collect at Costco, Bellingham, WA. We never saw the bottle since the drinks are poured in the galley.



We started with a creamy ginger carrot bisque followed by a mixed salad with balsamic vinaigrette. The soup was great, although smaller portioned, where as the salad looked like it had a bad day in the office and was ready to get home for the evening.



This was followed by the main, the roasted pomegranate glazed chicken. I had pre-ordered this on the Alaska App a few days before the trip as I’ve had bad luck generally of airlines running out of my first choice lately. It was a reasonable, if not elecltic taste. MrsWT73 opted for a pre-order of the cheese plate, which she enjoyed.





We finished the meal with Salt and Straw Handmade Ice Cream which was really tasty; Beecher’s Cheese and Peppercorn Toffee. It was to die for… It was a solid upgrade on the dessert offering.



Alaska passes out Tablets’ in first class for movies on its Hawaii flights. I settled into the Hobbs and Shaw movie along with a final Gin and Tonic with lime. The tablet was a nice touch since but the neck down wards looking was a little uncomfortable for me after a while.



The cabin was prepared well early for the descent into Honolulu. The crew were clearing things about 45 minutes in advance.

One of the main drawbacks of the Alaska First Class seat configuration is that there is no where to actually store many items. Aside from a seat map pocket which is shared between the seats in the bulkhead, there isn’t much storage location for phones, passports, charging devices. This ended up being cameras stacked on top of laptop bags, with charging devices and phones stacked on top of the bags.

We had a straight in landing into Honolulu at gate E6. As we stepped off, we saw that the plane was being turned around to depart for Anchorage Alaska. We located our bags and headed off into Honolulu.







All in all, Alaska First Class is a nicer way to get to Hawaii than being seated in the back in economy. It’s a reasonable First Class service; you’ll get fed, have drinks available and probably be entertained through a movie. However, you won’t ever mix up this flight with any wide body service where there’s ample space to move around or advanced entertainment systems or deluxe catering. It’s still an enjoyable way to get to Hawaii.
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Old Mar 7, 20, 12:10 pm
  #4  
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Sheraton Waikiki
High King Oceanfront Guest Room, 1 King.


When looking to see properties to book, I located the large monolith Sheraton Waikiki. On our last trip, we had last stayed at the Moana Surfrider in the historic wing. While quaint, it wasn’t charming enough to call us back again for another stay. We ended up at the Sheraton Waikiki. It’s been around forever. It was a terrible use of points as a Category 7; a standard night was over 50,000 points asking for a city view back street room. As a result, we ended up with a paid rate. I searched around and the best one that I could find was the American Auto Mobile Association (AAA rate) for $282 USD that included a $50 food and beverage credit per night.

We arrived curbside via Uber and were offered assistance from the Sheraton valet with the bags. There weren’t too many arrivals at this time of night. Surprisingly absent was the lei presentation (we’re closed maybe?). We declined bag assistance and wandered up to the check in counters which were totally empty and line free at 11 PM.











We had applied Suite Night Awards to the property for the Ohana Suites. Unfortunately, they had failed to clear at the 5 day mark. We were then pro-actively upgraded before check in into the High King Oceanfront Guest Room, 1 King from the base level City View room that we had booked, courtesy of MrsWT73’s Titanium Elite status. The pleasant but efficient check in reception agent assigned us #3127 , which was situated on the very top floor. I asked about the breakfast in the restaurant but the only offer / Titanium Welcome Amenity was 1,000 welcome bonus or a box of chocolates; “we don’t offer that anymore” [referring to breakfast in the restaurant]. I didn’t push the issue since I wasn’t actually going to be around for most of the stay; taking off on the UA Island Hopper in 2 days. MrsWT73 prefers the short and sweet lounge food anyways over the proper sit down breakfast. We were presented with the usual hotel information sheet and restaurant / lounge timings.



We were provided the regular Club Leani (lounge) card that stated the hours of operation and the public cash upgrade price of $125 for 2 adults and 2 children under the age of 12. We were given free access to the lounge courtesy of Titanium status.



We also received a letter outlining the conditions of the resort fees. Surprisingly as mentioned, there was no Lei arrival; something that you might expect in the service of a resort fee at $40 USD per day. The resort fee covered 2 bottles of local water and the usual junk you don’t need; photo session, go pro rental and Wi-Fi. It unfortunately did not cover parking which was chargeable at $35 for self park or $45 for valet. I didn't locate any cheaper options that didn't involve a major walk or a 7 AM wake up in order to re-position the car.



The AAA rate $50 food and beverage credit came with a letter outlining the terms and conditions. The credit was only valid at the 4 food and beverage outlets in the Sheraton Waikiki (Kai Market, Rum Fire, The Edge Bar and Hapa’s Pizza) and was applied to food and alcohol and was thankfully inclusive of tax and gratitude. The unused balance was not able to be carried over to another day nor applied against room rate or resort charge. There was nothing like passing quizzes of all the information presented to you at this hour. I ended up scooping most of it up to read the next morning.



We navigated ourselves to the assigned room #3127 . The room was one of the newer recently renovated rooms. The full refurbishment has added a nice modern touch to a dated hotel. The room consequently was in great shape. The room itself is a little compact. On the whole, it was a pretty good soft upgrade for a 1,656 hotel room that likely had over 50 – 100 platinum +’s staying during our visit and had a large chunk of rooms 25% +/-?) closed for ongoing renovations.









The bathroom was tiny but fully refreshed. As can be expected, it offered Japanese toilets.







The entry space was also fully refreshed with useful storage conveniences.







There was a small deck out on the 31th floor, with a great sunset view. Some photos from sunrise on our first day…









After arriving to the room on the first night, I couldn’t get the air conditioner to work. It was impossible to sleep and the temperature read 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celcius). I had the thermostat cranked down to 65 for about an hour with no luck. I ended up calling Guest Services who indicated that it was broken for the night hotel wide (say what?!?) with and apologies that it would be fixed as soon as possible but likely the next day. Much to my horror, we slept with the patio door open all night (on the 31st floor) just to cool off the room. Thankfully, the issue was fixed the next day by mid morning.



After the first hot evening with no air conditioner, we took breakfast in the Lehani Lounge. The deluxe continental breakfast included scrambled eggs, sausages, Texas fries along with a miso soup station, white rice, croissants, cakes, mango / orange juice and Kona Coffee that wasn’t all too strong. The evening happy hour featured similar snacks, meatballs, breads and house wine and Kona Brewing bottled beer over ice. The lounge occupies a very large area with impressive window views over Diamond Head and the bay. It unfortunately does not feature an outside deck like the Moana Surfrider Club Lounge.







Ultimately, despite the chaos of a busy lounge, the views from the 30th floor were pretty inspiring. The views over the skyline towards Diamond Head were among my favorite.





Overall, we had a really nice stay here aside from all the hidden fees. The $50 food and beverage credit was a nice way to add value to the stay and we'd easily stay here again if the same sort of rate presented itself.
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Old Mar 7, 20, 12:17 pm
  #5  
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Join Date: Oct 2010
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Honolulu, Hawaii,
United States of America
Day 1


We had a 4 days stay at the Sheraton Waikiki. I was staying on for just two nights before the Island Hopper whereas MrsWT73 was staying all four nights. As a result, I had an extra day on the property before the next leg of my adventure.

We spent the next day lounging by the pool. The property features many more sun chairs than the Moana Surfrider and we were able to get a lounger for the day in the adult area Infinity Pool at 8:30 AM without any issues (or payment). The first bank of chairs by the pool with the best views are paid at $30 for the day, whereas the other chairs are free.









We had a full day of sun. We ended up taking a few pictures from the excellent infinity pool on a deck that had full sun exposure from 8:45 AM right to quitting time at about 4:45 PM. The combination of bobbing in the pool, Tom Clancy books, followed by a perfectly cooked mahi mahi burger and a mai tai or two using our daily $50 USD food and beverage credit made for a great relaxing day.







Mid way through the afternoon, I took a break from the pool and wandered down to look at the resort area. We had spent most of the day in the adult section. There were an additional two pools for the kids. There was also immediate access to Waikiki Beach adjacent to the Royal Hawaiian next door.







Some high density seating here. . .







I also located a charming but brief walkway to the Royal Hawaiian lobby next door. It featured some gorgeous mature growth trees.





After the sun tanning session ended, we had sunset and sundowner cocktails up from the 31st floor from our hotel room. The view from the room was a nice spot and pleasant sunset views over the water.







After sunset, we ended up walking down to Duke’s for dinner at about 7:30 PM. There was not much of a wait and we ended up on the lanai after about 15 minutes. There is nothing like an all American Duke’s Cheese burger and fries when you’re in the USA along with a Kona Blonde Ale, while MrsWT73 treated herself to nachos and a Duke’s Mai Tai in the usual Duke’s Tiki glass.





Our time at the Sheraton Waikiki and around Waikiki Beach was absolutely fabulous with a sunny first day. I was a bit hesitant to leave on my adventure after having such a nice time.
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Old Mar 7, 20, 7:37 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Programs: Mileage Plus
Posts: 98
Looking forward to the rest of your report. Yes, the hotel is a monstrosity, but your room looks nice enough. From a distance that hotel is so super big it looks like it might cause the island to tip over.
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Old Mar 8, 20, 4:07 pm
  #7  
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Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: St. Paul, MN
Programs: Delta GM, IHG Gold, HH Silver
Posts: 382
Great start to this report, and looking forward to your next part and flying to all the stops on the way to Guam! This is certainly something I would love to do as well at sometime in my life, definitely a bucket-list trip!

Alaska looks like they offer a good service, but I always find the food to be a bit lackluster compared to the other US carriers. On a 5 hr 55 minute flight I would expect to see a bit more in the way of food offering in their F cabin. Seems like they offer the same level of service between the west coast and HI as they would on a SEA-MCO or SEA-EWR flight.
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Old Mar 10, 20, 8:16 pm
  #8  
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
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United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
HNL – MAJ (Honolulu – Majuro)
January 29, 2020
7:25 AM – 10:25 AM + 1
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800


In terms of the strategic planning for this flight, I read all the CNN, Conde Nast Traveler articles and Flyertalk threads for the flight. It became apparent some travelers (or should I say bloggers / content creators) hadn’t even flown the routes and were copying each other’s information. All to say, the research was quite insightful as to what to expect for the day. I read about tips that indicated that you should call around to have the United reservations agents split the segments / tickets so that you could get access to upgrades, different seats and the like; I didn’t bother following up with much of that. I also read stories about United agents pro-actively moving you off the Island Hopper route in favor of the non stop Honolulu to Guam; this was also not my experience although I did keep a regular eye on the itinerary. The tip that was most useful was to pack substantial food to bring along with you since only the Honolulu – Majuro segment was catered with food. I ended up stopping at the ABC Stores the night before where I picked up some take away sandwiches (which got sent into secondary and swabbed at TSA at HNL), Clif bars and Stanley nuts to snack on. Overall, the preparation was a wise idea and gave me a great idea on what to expect. I had already spent many hours over the course of several years glancing through the United Hemispheres in flight magazine in order to one day take this flight.



I started the day like many other early morning flights. It was up at 4:30 AM Hawaiian Standard Time and out the door of the Sheraton Waikiki at 5:10 AM, leaving MrsWT73 to enjoy her $50 USD food and beverage credit by the pool for the next 2 days. I grabbed an $23 Uber over to Honolulu airport. The older Japanese driver was quite chatty for the early morning hour. If there was any saving grace, it was that 4:30 AM HST was actually 6:30 AM Pacific Standard Time, making the early rise feel a lot less early than it actually was.

I had attempted on line check in but the Canadian Passport I was travelling on didn’t seem to jive with the UA reservation system. It suggested that I upload the document through the camera within the app but it didn’t work in the end, despite accurately grabbing all my document information and expiry dates. As a result, I had to turn up for a document verification at the airport. The system did automatically offer to select different seats for each leg of the journey. It may have been in my nature to jump around to different seats just ten to fifteen years ago. But these days, I am more of a sucker for consistency than experiencing a new economy seat position that you’ve probably already tried several times before.

Since I couldn’t get a boarding card, and I was checking my rolling suitcase, United had a check in cut off time of 75 minutes before the flight for all flights departing Honolulu. It was recommended to check your carry on luggage instead of deplaning with it at each stop. As a result, I had to get to the HNL counters by 6:10 AM at the latest. On arrival to Honolulu airport at about 5:40 AM, I tried again at the kiosk on arrival but ended up getting sent into the short Premier Access line in order to get the final paperwork completed. I indicated to the friendly agent that I was headed on the Island Hopper to which she responded that I “would be on the plane for a long time today”. While I was at the airport at the Premier Access desk, I couldn’t help but overhear an Australian man checking about 6 suitcases to Melbourne via Los Angeles. I guess there are people that take dog leg connections all over the world in order to save a few bucks on a fare.







Despite entering all available information and a Global Entry Pass ID number, the TSA Pre-Check did not turn up on the boarding card. As a result, it was the regular security line for me. There wasn’t much left in terms of Free Economy Plus at check in for United Silvers so I was really happy that I paid for the Economy Plus window seat. For some reason, 7C which is typically occupied by the on board flight engineer was not blocked out; perhaps as this below was showing for the HNL-MAJ flight. The available seat map for free Economy Plus is below at T-70 minutes.



There wasn’t much open on the secure side of the airport at this hour. There was lonely Starbucks and a Burger King that were offering coffee. There were no Priority Pass Lounges open at this hour so I settled for a BK Ham and Cheese Croissant sandwich “gut bomb” to fill me up for a bit.



The flight boarded from Gate F1, which had a special passport check for travelers. As the flight passes through both The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia before arriving in Guam, it seems to be considered both a domestic and international flight at the same time. They much have a special “cabotage” exemption to allow service from Honolulu (US) to Guam (US). Several weeks before my travels, the Coronavirus outbreak started in China, and had reached the United States and Canada. As a result, there were several screening and inoculation checks for The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. We had a queue of inoculation checks with confirmation of measles, mumps and other ailments. Passengers were having to produce certificates of measles inoculations “within the past 2 years” and there was quite a bit of confusion over what was acceptable.





Once in the holding area, it was a first glimpse of the plane for the next 14 hours. This is along with a souvenir boarding card photo with the hopper all on one card.







When Group 2 is not Group “2”, I boarded in the seventh group after the 6 other pre-boarding clients; those with disabilities, military, children, Global Services, 1 K, and Group 1. I found myself the Economy Plus seat that I had carefully selected for the entire flight. It was worth it to pay the extra $59 USD for the 14 hour journey. As mentioned, there were only 1 or 2 economy plus window seats open at the check in window at 24 hrs and I was happy to not have chanced it.



I had picked seat 8F; mostly ahead of the wing and engine for unobstructed photo shots. It was also on the northern shady side of the westward bound plane, with the sun coming in from the south; preventing some glare into the cabin. Next time, I would have probably picked 7F in the bulkhead as I still got the engine creeping into my photos more often than I would have liked, and the extra row forward may have made a difference. I was fortunate that no one ended up in 8E for this leg, so I had a little shoulder extra room to stretch myself out. I was also happy that the cabin was refreshed with in flight seat power (rows 1-21 only) that actually worked. I had packed a power bank with me anyway.

On board, the flight started among like any other. Despite what I had read, there was a lot of bin space available for the flight and it was probably only about 60% full. The usual flight announcements consisting of a 4 hour and 24 minute flight time to Majuro. There was also a stern advance public address warning by the pilot surrounding for those travelling to Majuro or Kwajalein to ensure that inoculations had been received so that you would be permitted entry into the country. There was a lot of general chit chatter amongst the travelers; more so than on other narrow body flights. Overhearing the conversations, the passenger ahead of me worked for the US Air Force, where as some of the other passengers appeared to be contractor types headed to KWA. They finalized the load, much of which appeared to be cargo headed to Majuro and Kwajalein.









We departed on the coral runway out of Honolulu. There was the usual interesting plane spotting on the way out of HNL. It’s interesting to see US Air Force jets parked at the nearby Hickham base, along with Jetstar B787’s.







As we climbed, we had a gradual right turn towards The Marshall Islands and we were on our way.





The only meal served on the flight was presented almost immediately. It was a Jimmy Dean Sausage Egg and Cheese on a Muffin, along with a Chobani Greek Yoghurt with a Mixed Berry. I don’t usually go for pop on the plane but they seemed to be giving out full cans so I went with a can of Sprite over ice to keep me hydrated for the long trip.





The meal was also collected almost immediately as well. I hadn’t even gotten through the McMuffin prior to them coming through to collect the trays.

There was a light amount of content on the Direct TV with in seat back entertainment screens so you didn’t have to rely on a tablet. There were about 7 Hollywood movies and the moving map. Unfortunately, the News & Information, Entertainment and Music Channels, Family & Kids Channels were all blacked out and not viewable not being over the Continental US. Most of the early chatter between passengers subsided pretty quickly as the shades went down for most people and they drifted off to sleep.

After breakfast, there was nothing to see but miles of expansive ocean. Much like a trans-continental, there wasn’t much to do but relax and enjoy. The monotony was broken up by some turns over what appeared to be the Johnston Atoll. I wouldn’t have even noticed it but we had a large S turn at 36,000 feet, despite no other aircraft traffic on view.

The Johnston Atoll was claimed by the United States in 1858. It appears to be presently under the control of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as an unincorporated territory. It included at one time being a refueling stop for the B29 Enola Gay as it transited the Pacific Ocean, in addition to military rocket and launch testing sites over the years.













It took a while before we had anything to look at but eventually we started the approach into exotic Majuro Atoll. The islands and atolls themselves are changed in a flat U shape. Our approach took us over the eastern portion of these islands. We had a fairly quick approach and descent into Majuro in the Marshall Islands.



























As we approached, there was the first public address announcement to indicate that transit passengers had the option of getting off, or staying on board for 45 minutes. As with past reports, passengers disembarking had to take all their carry on items with them. The landing cards were also passed out. It seems you have to declare more than $300 worth of clothes if entering the country.





We had a short landing on the sole runway. After we landed, the local fire department came to pace the aircraft.







As I got off the plane, we stepped onto a ramp jet bridge out into a cloudy space. The first sight to see was the small red terminal building with the famous YOKWE arrival sign, welcoming travellers to The Marshall Islands.







Thanks to the early developing Coronarvirus situation, passengers were split into two lines; transit and arrival. I was tempted to line up at the arrivals desk for a passport stamp, but wasn’t able to make it past the screeners as they were all looking for documentation and stamps. The staff I talked to had no sense of humor about the whole thing, making it difficult to be where you weren’t supposed to be. Relegated to the transit lounge, I headed over to a small dark space.



Once in the transit lounge, there was a small “Snack Time” concession stand selling everything from Duty Free, sandwiches, tinned soft drinks, to Newspapers to Hard Boiled Eggs out of a carton. I picked up a local copy of the Marshall Island Journal for “$1 on Majuro” proudly printed on the cover. Surprisingly, the paper was printed +1 day in advance, even with the time zone and international date line change.





I happened to locate the exit immigration booth which happened to back onto the arrival booth. I flagged down the officer when he was done to ask to see if he could stamp my passport. Unfortunately, even with a souvenir patch to offer for him from my home country of Canada as a courtesy, he declined to stamp it; “only if you’re entering”. As with the case in many of these small airports, there is no way to enter the country to get the stamp, since once you enter, there is no way of getting back airside as all the security screeners and immigration people have left their posts. Reluctantly, passport luck was not on my side today with the stamps.

While I was there, I was able to connect to the free wifi. There was no cellular service the entire time I was on the island. I was able to send a quick hello back to MrsWT73 who was comfortably set up at the Infiniti pool having a mai tai.
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Old Mar 10, 20, 8:24 pm
  #9  
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United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
MAJ – KWA (Majuro - Kwajalein)
January 31, 2020
11:40 AM – 12:35 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800


The stopover at Majuro was really quick. We moved forward a day with the date line change. We repeated the usual United Boarding process when Boarding Group 2 actually equals group 7 (still funny to me). The sun was shining on us as we left and the photographs came out all that much more brilliant.







In true small town charm, a family of kids was shrieking good bye at their family member as they boarded the ramp jet bridge. I guess some things, even all this way deserted in the middle of the ocean, are the same as back home.





On board, we were joined by the United maintenance engineer who was seated in 7C in uniform, ball cap and N95 face mask. I think that last part was a personal choice on his part. He wasn’t overly chatty with those around him for the duration of this and the other flights. I had a seatmate in 8D, but with good luck, the middle seat next to me in 8E remained empty.

They played the Star Wars featured UA safety video one more time as we taxied down the runway. There was a dilapidated hanger that seemed to house an ATR72 that was backed into it, among other random aircraft lying around.



We had a departure on the sole runway; heading out on the runway itself with a U turn at the end. Some small photographs of the Atoll as we left. It had a pretty special and unique shape to it that I hadn't seen in many other corners of the world, despite having been to French Polynesia, the Maldives and similar places.























It was a short 45 minute flight over to confidential Kwajalein. As a result, only an offer of water or orange juice was served. It was now 2 PM Hawaiian Time so I thought it was proper to start to dig into the ABC Stores mega sandwich that I had purchased the night before. The flight attendant was so excited when he saw it, he actually said “I am going to have to take that away”. I had a mini heart attack before I realized that he was just kidding. It must be a familiar gag on this particular route.







We had a very quick descent into Kwajalein, likely because there was no other air traffic. The Kwajalein Atoll is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It’s the most southern most island of this particular atoll and hosts about one thousand people at the local air force base. It has been used for missile testing of all sorts over the past fifty years.

I had previously read that photography wasn’t allowed on this island. Having had no announcement about it, I kept snapping away until the plane rolled to a stop. We passed by the golf course on the south side of the Island and runway; a strange thing to see greens among manicured palm trees. As we stopped, an announcement was made that “… due to US regulations…” that no photography was permitted. The crew on and off didn’t appear to enforce this, although I didn’t see many seated around me willing to test this rule.









As we taxied to a stop, my Seat mate in 8D indicated that he had spent 10 years here, without specifying exactly what he was doing. I didn’t ask him nor put him in an uncomfortable cover story position. Surprisingly, he also didn’t ask me about my picture taking. . . I asked him how life was here and he indicated that there were no cars on the island and that most got around by bicycle. He was an older man in his late fifties and seemed to be very comfortable with the pace of life here; dressed in polo golf shirts and silver and grey peppered hair… He commented almost stoically that he didn’t know if raising his teenager kids here during that time period had helped or hindered them out in the real world. I bid him farewell and he gathered up his things and headed off to return home on the base.

We had about an hour and ten minutes on the ground. I stood up and stretched while they serviced and fueled the plane. Crawling over to an empty seat on the left hand side of the plane, I happened to spot an entry sign “US Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll – A Community of Excellence”. Eventually making it back to the right hand side at 8F, I was able to see most of the cargo being off loaded. There was a surprising collection of bicycles, golf clubs and other square card board boxes. As a point of amusement, , almost checked bag coming off the Island Hopper had a bright orange United Priority Tag on it signifying the frequent travellers of this odd ball airline route.

The ground crew serviced the plane; closing the bathrooms. There were one or two confused standby passengers; I am supposed to get off to get my new boarding card, but I’m not allowed to get off? Of a route to fly stand by on, what are the chances of survival if you get stuck somewhere without a planned hotel? They eventually announced that boarding cards would be brought on board and to self-identify yourself to the agents. The lead ground agent came and did an onboard inventory of checked bags. He only seemed interested in the overhead bin ones. My laptop bag and bag of cafeteria snacks were of no interest to him.

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Mar 10, 20 at 8:46 pm
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Old Mar 10, 20, 8:36 pm
  #10  
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United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
KWA – PNI (Kwajalein – Pohnpei)
January 31, 2020
1:24 PM – 2:09 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800


Shortly before it was time to get underway, we had a few thirty something military types board the plane. Based on the way that they were dressed, it seemed like they were about to start their leave. We left confidential Kwajalein. I didn’t have any seat mates next to me for this leg of the journey and had the whole bank of 8D – 8E – 8F all to myself. I was able to snap a few photos on the way out, although I was on the wrong side of the aircraft for the best and greenest looking atoll around the island. We took a hard left turn as we headed westward on our journey, meaning that I had a look at the outer reefs for this particular departure.















Unlike flights around the atolls of the Maldives, flying in this part of the world is mostly an exercise in cloud study. There aren’t many islands or atolls to look at. Occasionally, you can see a series of atolls in the distance, but they are view and far between. Most of the atolls worth seeing are within 60 seconds of take off and landing. When they are, they are sure spectacular.









With this segment being a 1 hour and 45 minute flight, there was an offer of alcoholic drinks available for purchase. Given that they started at about $9 USD, I ended up sticking with a free Minute Maid Cranberry and Apple Cocktail along with another serving of self-catered planters peanuts.



With our descent into Pohnpei, we landed into a place that was much larger than our last two stops. The weather here was a little cloudy on our visit, so it didn’t have that spectacular exotic hideway island look to it. Instead of an airport perched on top of a skinny atoll surrounded by water, we passed over lush mountains in a tropically cloudy environment. There were also medium sized mountains with rock faces as we approached.













As we taxied to position, transit passengers were invited to remain on board or deplane. I took my belongings with me and disembarked into the largest airport that we had seen on this trip since Honolulu.

I was still looking for opportunities to get a passport stamp but none were really presenting itself at PNI either. I suspect that there weren’t any arriving passengers on today’s flight as we were all marshalled into a transit area. It would make sense that most passengers to this part of the world come eastward from Guam since we were more than past the halfway mark of the trip.







The holding area was quite spartan without a customs’ booth either in or out to be seen. I found the international phone that recommended that you wait 20 seconds for an operator in order to be connected to be quite amusing, although I didn’t see anyone use it.







Wondering through the two room Pohnpei airport, I eventually located the main restaurant concession. A bit of a hole in the hall, it was walled off from the main seating area by a wall and glass partition and not an elegant one if you know what I am talking about. At the concession, there was a full bar (not that you’d be expecting that), room temperature resting on the counter bento boxes containing what appeared to be nori and rice among other things, and a small souvenir stand.









I latched onto the souvenir stand and ended up purchasing a small “I Love PNI” wooden magnet for $10 USD and a small container of Kosrae chili salt; presumably organic for $7.50 USD. The Kosrae chili salt must have been popular as the military types that had boarded at Kwajalein came looking for some and I had bought one of the only two remaining bottles. I can certainly affirm having had it back home that it is mighty tasty. I also picked up an ice cold Signature lemon lime soda for $2. Asahi Beer was also available for $3, but I stuck with the non-alcoholic liquids for now. The Pohnpei stop was easily the best “in – airport” souvenir stand on this particular trip.

I was able to locate some weak WIFI within the terminal. Unfortunately, it took forever to sign in and by the time I had passed through that whole process, the first 5 groups of boarding had already been announced and it was time to get back on board. I only had about 15 minutes inside this particular airport. I was fortunate to get a quick email download of all the stuff happening today, which was the initial announcements of British Airways and Air Canada cancelling their flights into China as a result of the coronavirus; among the first flights in the world to be cancelled into the region at the time.
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Last edited by worldtraveller73; Mar 10, 20 at 8:44 pm
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Old Mar 10, 20, 8:43 pm
  #11  
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United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
PNI – TKK (Pohnpei – Truk)
January 31, 2020
3:05 PM – 3:20 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800


With our early boarding call, I ended up snapping off a few photographs by this point as I walked back out to the aircraft. Much like my past trip to Easter Island Chile, the rural apron boarding seemed all that much more normal at this time in the sequence of flights.







We had boarded quite early in a surprising era of efficiency for such a tiny outpost. Unlike the earlier segments, this section of the flight was surprisingly full with few empty seats. I was joined by a female seat mate in 8D whom had a traditional patterned wrap and a Micheal Kors handbag, most unusual for this part of the world. I would later discover that she was United crew, based on her interactions later in the trip. Thankfully, middle seats in Economy Plus within Micronesia are not hot sellers so I had another empty middle 8E next to me for this leg. While we waited to get underway, I had enough time to capture a photograph of the souvenirs from Pohnpei. It's a great photo for the souvenir books...



The pilot came on with the usual introductions and a repeat of the same Star Wars flight safety video. We departed on Runway 9 with peek a boo views of the hills amid the cloudy weather of this particular island.













The crew came around with another pack of almonds and a beverage service. I had a Minute Maid orange juice for this leg. I figured that we were more than halfway through the trip, I would get into the last of my triple stacker sandwich. It was at this point that the clouds actually broke a little and I got some somewhat interesting scenery slipping by through the window.















The segment from Pohnpei to Trukk was only 1 hour and 15 minutes. The pilots offered the usual winds and weather updates just prior to the approach. It was a pretty approach on the right hand side of the aircraft prior to landing in Truk.











We landed on runway 4 and had a taxi to the terminal. As for the last time today, the Chuuk fire truck came out to meet us.











On arrival into the Truk terminal, I kept my eye out for the last opportunity for a passport stamp. As you may have guessed by now, things aren’t as well marked as they should be. We didn’t have many arriving passengers with some that looked like they were headed off with staff members to other parts of the apron. I perhaps should have followed my gut a bit more and pushed the issue headed towards what appeared to be a service door. The area is so well marked, you need to use a little vanishing ink even to see the local airport sign.





Instead, I ended up headed with the crowds to the main transit building. The building was another old utilitarian facility with upright semi portable air conditioners. The hall didn’t have much charm to it. It was packed however and was the busiest hall of the group today. There were some Japanese and American Tourists, some locals in traditional attire and another group of older women who appeared to be on a small group holiday. I took a look at the older women closely and happened to spot United Crew ID cards on lanyards around their necks. On closer examination, they even had old Continental stock luggage tags on their rolling luggage tags. One of them sported a Blue Lagoon Dive Shop Truk golf shirt, the place to be when you come to Truk. I used the local facilities and we were back to the land of waste basket(s) by the toilet for the used toilet paper. There was an odor to match with the same rural smell of sweat in the waiting room that you get when you travel through places like India or rural South America where people don’t have the same access to hot showers like we do in the west. The holding area had a real authentic feel to the place and was a hive of activity during the short time we were there.


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Within the Truk holding area, there was a small gift shop and sundries store but it didn’t sell too many interesting things. It did happen to sell rolls of toilet paper that you could select by pointing through the counter glass, along with flower ceramic earrings. There were some wooden carvings for about $35 – 50 USD but they didn’t look all to interesting or authentic for that matter.





Without the ability to get any cell signal or Wi-Fi in the airport, it was a pretty stand- around-and-find-someone-to-chat-to type of layover. The military group tended to stick together, in addition to ordering Asahi beer at every airport opportunity. I’d probably be doing the same thing if I was stuck on a tiny island for months at a time.
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Old Mar 10, 20, 9:08 pm
  #12  
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United Airlines
UA 154 – Economy Class (XN)
TKK – GUM (Truk – Agana)
January 31, 2020
4:20 PM – 5:55 PM
Booked: Boeing 737-800
Flown: Boeing 737-800


After about 30 minutes, we were called to board. The Truk station was super casual and there wasn’t even a look or check of the boarding card once we exited the airport and boarded back onto the plane.





Once on board, it was back to Seat 8F. For the first time, the plane was completely full. The overhead bins were completely stuffed and there were several bags being off loaded. I was joined by a larger local Pacific Islander seated in Seat 8E. Needless to say, out of five segments flown, with 4 without a seat mate, it was much more compact and tight fitting in the plane without having the seat next to you vacant. While we waited, I happened to see all the igloo cooler containers that were being loaded on into the baggage hold and sent back to Guam full of fish. I had read that they would be returned by other family members back to Truk full of meat. There must have been at least thirty to forty of these coolers being loaded on and they dominated the cargo and baggage belt on arrival in Guam. It was evidence on how much a lifeline these flights are to this part of the world.





We had a small delay while the crew sorted out the standby list and they got the last of the bags on board. The flight crew proudly announced as we started to taxi that this was the last and fifth segment of UA 154 with service to Guam.

On our departure, we used the runway to taxi out to Runway 4 with a u-ball at the end. We had a departure immediately over the Chukk Lagoon. The Chukk Lagoon is supposed to be one of the world’s best dive sites. It has several shipwrecks, although I didn’t to any advance research to see where in the Lagoon that they were to allow for possible aerial spotting. The view of the large area from the air was pretty neat. The water was exceptionally still thanks to the motu surrounding the Lagoon. You could even picture how still it was based on these photos. It has a complete absence of waves or water crests.

















The flight this time was a shorter 1 hour and 35 minutes back to Guam. To my surprise, a small ham and cheese sandwich on a cheese bun was offered. It was accompanied by another package of almonds and a fruit tart. Having brought my own nuts, I ate the sandwich but skipped the calories with the almonds that tasted ever so familiar by this point.







Landing cards for Guam were also passed out. I didn’t realize that it was considered a completely separate area of the United States with it’s own border controls.



We had a quick and sharp approach into Guam with a low altitude turn to line up with the runway Hong Kong Kai Tak style. Flying over the island at probably 2,500 feet, I got a look into the houses off the waterfront. They had a bit of a rough edge to them; the weather and the heat wasn’t too kind to a lot of the paint. It actually reminded me of looking down at houses in Tanzania or Nairobi.









We arrived into a deserted airport and were corralled into a maze towards immigration.







All in all, the last segment was among the quickest of the group. I was happy to get the legs moving again after all that cramped seating for the day. Looking back on it all, it was not too terribly bad but I was happy that did the whole trip on my own. I didn’t see or recognize any other travelers on this date doing the whole 5 segment journey with me. Aside from some adventurous standby’s exploring this part of the world, I was pretty much the only one on “through traffic” today.



Guam shares the same time zone as Sydney Australia. Being on a plane breathing stale air for 14 hours felt like I had certainly traveled some distance. On arrival I cleared customs using Global Entry and headed into the baggage hall. After I cleared customs, I went upstairs to the departures hall and was able to check in at the United Airlines kiosk for my next day return flight back to Honolulu. I had tried earlier in Honolulu before getting onto the Island Hopper in hopes of getting some of the free Economy Plus for United Premier Silver members which was made available at the 24 hour mark on a complimentary basis but was also unsuccessful in doing so. Unfortunately, in Guam at T – 12 hours, all of the good economy plus seats on the windows for my return flight were all gone. A friendly agent came around to the kiosk and helped me out with an exit row aisle seat in 39F, which was better than being cramped in regular seating.

I rolled myself back downstairs and over to the Hertz desk where another very friendly agent processed my rental and offered a staff member to walk me out to the lot. I ended up with a brand new 2020 Mazda 3 with less than 793 miles on the odometer. I drove myself over to the Sheraton resort, which was less than 12 minutes and 5 miles drive. I snapped a little sunset photo from the airport parking lot, as this would be the extent of my sunset in Guam.



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Old Mar 10, 20, 9:15 pm
  #13  
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UA Island Hopper Tips & Tricks:

I don’t usually offer overt tips in this forum, generally allowing others to try and form their own opinions based on what I write. However, having been posting now for almost 10 years and over four thousand posts, several dozen trip reports, and having actually flown the route, I think I can easily offer up my Top 5 tips with some credibility for those considering the Island Hopper.

1. It’s a long day.

If you plan on doing all segments in one day, it is a long day. This is always said but it bears repeating. At fourteen and a half hours gate to gate, it’s the same time duration as a flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong or over 6,000 miles flown. Despite this, the day is broken up quite a bit so the main pain is the stiffness in your arse from being seated in these seats and from your neck from craning out the window for so long. I couldn’t imagine doing this journey eastward, at least travelling west you are moving with the sun and have your shorter flights at the end of the day. In addition to that, I don’t think I would enjoy doing the Island Hopper and continuing onto Palau or Yap. I’d be looking to break up that trip a little if I were offering advice.

2. Bring water and food with you.

In addition to the small mountain of food I brought with me, I would recommend packing a large bottle of water with you that you would have gotten on the secure side of the Honolulu airport. I started feeling a little dry between Pohnpei and Truk. Although there is water on board, you don’t get a lot in the tiny cups and there isn’t much (if any at all) to pick up along the way. If starting in Honolulu, this likely means buying a big bottle of Ethos Water at Starbucks because I didn’t find much on the secure side that was open at 5:30 AM. I didn’t allow myself enough time to go exploring to other parts of the terminal. At the time of writing, there is no security check after you leave Honolulu, even if you get off the plane, so you could bring gallons and gallons if you could find it without having it taken away from you.

3. Pay for an economy plus seat.

If you’re going to travel for 14 hours, you may as well be comfortable. I was initially a little hesitant paying $59 USD for a window seat. Having now flown this route, I would have easily paid double. You will be that much more comfortable and you’ll probably have access to one and a half windows for photographs. If you’re lucky like me, you may have no one next to you for the almost the entire journey. I'd probably pick the bullhead 7F the next time around as the engine intruded on my photos a little bit from 8F.

4. You actually see less greens and blues in the atolls than what travel blogs and on line trip reports would have you believe.

There are dozens of trip reports about the UA Island Hopper; it is a famed and mythical route. The reality is most of these views are fleeting and quick. It isn’t like the Maldives where your resort flight passes over thousands of lagoons; rather the lagoons and coral reefs are quite a ways apart. While most trip reports show the best photos, the reality is that most of these are within the first and last sixty seconds of an approach or climb to altitude. Much of the trip would be spent looking out the window at endless clouds and expanse of sea. If you really want to experience this part of the world, book an excursionist fare and get off at one of the islands. I know that I will, the next time if I ever do this route. If you want to see beautiful corals and take pictures of green and blue seats, then a Maldives Sea Plane transfer is likely your better bet over this trip.

5. If traveling with another person, consider whether your partner would actually enjoy doing this

As a self processed aviation geek, I love travel. I’m lucky enough to have a spouse that works at the C level in Aerospace. We both love travelling together and are closing in on a million lifetime miles flown (each). Having said that, she would have absolutely hated this experience. She would have found the seats too uncomfortable, the day too long and the rewards of isolation not worth the effort. I particularly enjoy staring out the window, looking at bizarre souvenir stands and visiting remote places. I wouldn’t often say this, but I am actually glad my spouse didn’t accompany me on this trip. MrsWT73 was much happier staying at the Sheraton Waikiki with mai tai after mai tai in the infinity pool taking in some sun than being wedged into a slimline seat breathing recycled air for 14 hours. If you’re going to take such a trip, consider whether traveling with your partner will do more harm than good. In my case, it was the right decision to travel solo.

I hope you all enjoyed the Island Hopper segments. More travel coming up in this report shortly!
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Old Mar 10, 20, 9:26 pm
  #14  
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Originally Posted by HawaiiFlyerDC8 View Post
Looking forward to the rest of your report. Yes, the hotel is a monstrosity, but your room looks nice enough. From a distance that hotel is so super big it looks like it might cause the island to tip over.
Thanks HawaiiFlyer. Yes - you are spot on with the style of the hotel. At least it has been modernized and doesn't look like it belongs in Rio de Janerio or similar. It's been nicely restyled which you can pick up when to stay in it.

Originally Posted by 757 View Post
Great start to this report, and looking forward to your next part and flying to all the stops on the way to Guam! This is certainly something I would love to do as well at sometime in my life, definitely a bucket-list trip!

Alaska looks like they offer a good service, but I always find the food to be a bit lackluster compared to the other US carriers. On a 5 hr 55 minute flight I would expect to see a bit more in the way of food offering in their F cabin.
It's certainly a bucket list item 757; the hardest part is actually committing the time in order to be able to do it. It was worth the experience for me and I really enjoyed it.

I always feel like I need more food on Alaska Airlines. At least I can go into it prepared (having eaten). It certainly makes it more enjoyable.
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Old Mar 11, 20, 6:34 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland
Programs: BA Bronze, Emirates Silver, Virgin Silver, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 1,120
Just catching up on your latest adventures and wow, what a trip to do! So was the numb bum worth it doing that Island hopping trip?
nequine is offline  

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