Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Miles&Points > Airlines and Mileage Programs > United Airlines | MileagePlus
Reload this Page >

UA's Micronesia Island Hopper - consolidated questions, advice, ....

Old Jun 30, 2016, 1:45 pm
FlyerTalk Forums Expert How-Tos and Guides
Last edit by: sonyeoshin
Best seat advice
See update in post 500
See update in post 690


Best seat on the Island Hopper .. {closed to new posts}

An Island Hopper [Micronesia] Definitive Guide on Where to Sit [UA B737] {this thread}

FAQs derived from findark's post (post #500)
What is the Island Hopper?

The Island Hopper is a United route between Honolulu and Guam, stopping at the islands of Majuro, Kwajaelin, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Chuuk in between. The Island Hopper operates in both directions, and skips Pohnpei on certain days. You are allowed to get off the plane and "transit" at each stop except for Kwajaelin, which is a US Army base.

This route is similar to Alaska Airlines' "milk run" routes in rural Alaska. All of these routes serve as lifelines for the residents living in areas served by the routes, as the sole connection providing supplies and transportation to/from the rest of the world.

What is the Island Hopper schedule (as of 2024)?
UA154 (the full Hopper) departs Mon/Fri and flies HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM.
UA155 (the full Hopper) departs Mon/Fri and flies GUM-TKK-PNI-KSA-KWA-MAJ-HNL.
UA132 departs Sun/Wed and flies HNL-MAJ-KWA-PNI-TKK-GUM (skips KSA).
UA133 departs Sun/Wed and flies GUM-TKK-PNI-KWA-MAJ-HNL (skips KSA).

UA193 (GUM-ROR-MNL) departs GUM on the evenings of Tue/Fri and flies GUM-ROR-MNL.

The Hopper arrives around 1800+1, so in order to do the entire flight without a stopover you would need to depart HNL on UA154 on Monday morning.


Should I experience the Hopper?

If you like hopping through short segments, with beautiful island views, as well as a constant parade of amazing cloudscape between islands, the Island Hopper may be for you!

Which direction (west or east) is better?

The prevailing wisdom here seems to be in favor of taking UA154 (HNL-GUM). findark did 155 from GUM to HNL, and I think there were some overlooked benefits. The eastbound Hopper has the advantage of doing all the fun stuff in the morning and afternoon when you're fresh and eager to enjoy. 14 hours onboard a 737 is a long time*, and doing it eastbound you can give in to the exhaustion and conk out for the final MAJ-HNL segment. Even the HNL arrival was actually not too bad - it's only 10:50pm Guam time, so if you head on to a hotel you're pretty much in line for a night's sleep.

The most notable downside of taking the Hopper eastbound is that you visit MAJ in darkness. We ran about 25m late the whole way, and it was full dark by the time we touched down in MAJ. Whichever way you go, don't do it on a Wednesday! Kosrae was my favorite island, and it would be a shame to miss it.

*And, I learned, while the flight mechanic hops off in MAJ and the pilots get to work in shifts, the cabin crew are on duty for the whole 14 hours. They were understandably a bit burnt out by the middle of MAJ-HNL, but were simply outstanding nonetheless - greeting kids and handing out wings as they boarded in MAJ.


What's with the plane configuration?

The Hopper is currently flown by a GUM subfleet 737-800 (currently Version 4 on the United website - Row 1 is set back several inches which yields fewer E+ seats). The seatmap is loaded as the "Asia local" 737 map, which looks roughly like a 737-700. Like with other "generic" maps, it will update to the full seatmap about 4 days before departure, when the additional rows will appear.

1AB are blocked for the augmented flight crew, who change places with the pilots in the cockpit at MAJ. 2AB are also blocked because the crew rest seats at 1AB will recline until almost touching row 2, and it is usually used for crew storage.

Where should I sit?

The key here is understanding approach and wind patterns, along with each airport's runway configuration. The following stops and runways are on the north side of their respective islands:

TKK (4/22), PNI (9/27), KSA (5/23)

The following stops have runways on the south side of their atolls:

KWA (6/24), MAJ (7/25)

The prevailing winds at this latitude blow from the east, so a typical landing goes from west to east (into the wind). Therefore, in order to have best views on final approach and initial takeoff, you want to be on the starboard (right, F) side for TKK, PNI, and KSA, and on the port (left, A) side for KWA and MAJ. If you are flying westbound, or you land backwards at any stop on the eastbound flight, then the flight may need to position into the approach, usually by overflying the island at higher altitude out to sea. In this case, both sides of the aircraft will get views, although the closer views belong to the "correct" side. In my case, we landed "backwards" on 22 at TKK, and used the regular 9, 5, 6, and 7 at the other stops.

You should absolutely have a window seat - why else are you here?! The best seats are therefore any window in the Business cabin (note that 1A and 2A are blocked), 7AF and 8AF in Economy Plus (10AF has a misaligned window but is okay, the missing window will kill you in 11 and then the wing really starts intruding), and anything nice and far behind the wing in Economy. In this vein, I declined an upgrade on GUM-TKK since only 2E was left, and we flew in 4A/7F, 2F/4A, 2F/3F, 3A/4A, 3A/4A, 2F/7F.


What can I do at the stops?

The best thing to do is get off the plane! You can take tarmac photos and get amazing close-ups of the plane. You will then be shepherded into the gate area, where there are restrooms (some lacking soap and/or towels) and often locals selling souvenirs and snacks. On our trip, the most substantial souvenirs were available at MAJ. If the flight is running late they will make an announcement requesting transfer pax to stay on the plane; however, as obviously savvy travelers who were along for the whole ride and could get on/off quickly with no bags to stow, we got absolutely no pushback from the purser whenever we went outside anyway.

If you do disembark, you are required to take all carry-on baggage with you. They conduct a security sweep onboard the aircraft and will remove unclaimed bags. As is mentioned many times in this thread, KWA is the exception - as it's a US Army base you cannot get off unless ticketed to there. On our flight, we were requested not to take photographs but were allowed to look out the window. I didn't see anything terribly interesting.

You can also use WiFi in the terminal/transit area when you disembark and at some stops you can get your passport stamped. MAJ, PNI, and KSA have confirmed free WiFi. Passport stamps have been confirmed at PNI, KSA, TKK without "exiting" just ask security about getting a stamp at these 3 airports and they should be able to accommodate you.

Should I check my bags?

Yes. As annoying as it was to wait ~10 minutes for our bags in HNL, it was a lot less annoying than having to haul them around each stop, and find bin space again once on board.


What is the food situation?

Going east is a slightly different meal schedule than west. GUM-TKK and KSA-KWA are coded Snack, and MAJ-HNL is Dinner. The first and last meals are reasonably substantial in J (think like a Breakfast and Dinner code) and somewhat small in Y (somewhat less than a meal in int'l Y - was six pieces of fruit and a muffin in the morning, followed by a turkey sandwich for dinner). The middle snack was just a pass of the snack basket up front; neither of us sat in Y that segment but I would guess they just offered almonds. Additionally, every segment they were offering J pax some packaged almonds.

My general verdict is if going the distance in Y, pack some snacks or buy them at the stops along the way. If you're in J then there's enough food for 14 hours of sitting.


And how about IFE?

Look outside! That's actually about all the IFE there is. The GUM fleet has no WiFi and only DirecTV. Note that DirecTV does not work outside of CONUS, so really it just has the 8-10 looping movies of DirecTV (slightly different movie set for an Asian audience). The movie loop resets at each stop, so unless you want to watch the first 1h30 of a movie six times, there's not much use to the IFE. It is at least free in Y. I brought a book and read it for the middle 20 minutes of each segment and until I fell sleep on MAJ-HNL.


Can I get an upgrade on the Hopper?

Empirically, yes! We were offered upgrades of 11/12 eligible segments; I declined a GUM-TKK upgrade to keep my window, and my companion's MAJ-HNL upgrade was eaten by UA IT (agent in MAJ apologized profusely but understandably wasn't going to remove the already-handed-out upgrades to the next 2 pax on the list).

In order to have any shot, however, you need to be able to split the direct flight into six segments. This generally cannot be done on a mileage ticket or a paid through fare, and would need to be done via multi-city ticketing if visiting an island. In my case, I spent a very long time getting an extremely wonderful pmCO agent who was able to hack my ticket together with 9 connections on the way home. As this is also the only way to choose different views for the different approach directions, I recommend asking for this rather than for upgrades. It causes quite the headache for UA systems, but in the end I felt like it was a huge benefit to fly pretty much all of it in J. Absolutely something I credit to the value of being 1K: I was able to ring the 1K desk many times to get agents to deal with the various hiccups that came along with a PNR that had eight tickets and at one point 36 segments attached to it.

The first five Hopper segments (going east) are CPU eligible; MAJ/HNL requires a GPU. We had GPUs on our reservation and did a mixture of advance clearing and clearing at the gates in the islands (where amazingly enough they had the new J BPs waiting!).


Where to stay and what to do in GUM and HNL?

I think this depends on lot on which way you're going. Flying east, we arrived in GUM around 11pm (maximizing time in Tokyo, but not crazy enough for the 2am arrival), and spent the night at the Days Inn Tamuning. It was at the very bottom of my quality standards, but quite affordable and with 9h45 of total ground time all in the dark I did not want to pay double for a beachfront property I would never enjoy.

In HNL, I took up the excellent recommendation in this thread of the Best Western Plaza Honolulu. It was the cheapest of the few airport hotels in HNL. Having cleared customs by 3:45 (we arrived late), it was off to bed quickly. The arrival is only ~11pm Guam time, so I highly recommend going straight to a bed on arrival in HNL. Afterwards, we took advantage of the 24h connect rule to spend the whole day in HNL before continuing on home to SFO. We were pretty exhausted after another redeye home, but the beach time in Hawaii was well worth it, especially after being taunted by all the beautiful mid-Pacific islands.

Big Metal Bird Episode 8: Island Hopper - 2018
Originally Posted by COEWR2587
They just did a video in the Micronesia island hopper flight which is pretty interesting
https://youtu.be/TPueM5OF1Wc
Print Wikipost

UA's Micronesia Island Hopper - consolidated questions, advice, ....

Old Nov 14, 2015, 6:12 am
  #226  
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 16
Will try UA155 during Dec. Arrives HNL at 0250, and connect to LAX at 0700 same morning (under the same ticket).

I shall be able to get boarding passes for both segments in GUM. However, the late arrival in HNL and AG inspection makes me wondering if I need to take my checkin luggage out to the landside, wait 5am to check in again; or I can just put my luggage back to the transfer belt and go to next gate. The timing is little bit weird, 2hrs transfer during midnight, no shops, no people...

And it seems HNL is closing their terminal overnight to prevent homeless people stay in, there will be small holding area for people who have valid itinerary to go in at night. Anyone have experience on that ?
Tonyc1234 is offline  
Old Nov 14, 2015, 7:13 am
  #227  
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: DC Suburbs
Programs: DL Gold, Hilton Gold, Carnival VIFP Gold, Hyatt Discoverist
Posts: 459
Originally Posted by Antonio8069
The NYT reviewed a new book, Pacific by Simon Winchester, which traces the long, lonely flight path of UA 154:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/02/bo...book.html?_r=0
Thanks to Antonio8069's post I ordered this book on Amazon and have already started reading it.

So far much of the prologue is written from the perspective of UA154...
aoumd is offline  
Old Nov 15, 2015, 7:08 am
  #228  
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Canada
Programs: Star Alliance G*, Marriott Bonvoy Titanium,
Posts: 3,601
Originally Posted by Tonyc1234
Will try UA155 during Dec. Arrives HNL at 0250, and connect to LAX at 0700 same morning (under the same ticket).
And it seems HNL is closing their terminal overnight to prevent homeless people stay in, there will be small holding area for people who have valid itinerary to go in at night. Anyone have experience on that ?
There are two terminals - the int'l and the HA terminal. The HA terminal is definitely closed down. But the int'l remains open for late flights and I found one security checkpoint was open 24 h. Once through security, I went to the United Club Lounge - which opens very early (04:30?) because of the early departure of the Island Hopper! I found a comfy massage chair at the foot of the escalator leading to the UC lounge, slept for 2 hours and then went to the UC.

Sleeping in Airports rates HNL very poorly but I found - to the contrary - it was not that bad! Good luck!!
Antonio8069 is offline  
Old Nov 15, 2015, 7:50 am
  #229  
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 5,441
One weird thing I noticed on the island hopper is that I arrived around 1900 inbound HNL on HA and wanted to check myself in for the island hopper the next day so I could save time the next morning, and was told I couldn't by the agent that guards the "entrance" to the check in kiosks... even after explaining the departure was <24h and no checked bags.. not sure if this is a HNL thing, weird
belfordrocks is offline  
Old Nov 15, 2015, 10:51 am
  #230  
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: DC Suburbs
Programs: DL Gold, Hilton Gold, Carnival VIFP Gold, Hyatt Discoverist
Posts: 459
Originally Posted by belfordrocks
One weird thing I noticed on the island hopper is that I arrived around 1900 inbound HNL on HA and wanted to check myself in for the island hopper the next day so I could save time the next morning, and was told I couldn't by the agent that guards the "entrance" to the check in kiosks... even after explaining the departure was <24h and no checked bags.. not sure if this is a HNL thing, weird
I was allowed to when I arrived around 1500h the day before, wanted to be sure to do it at a kiosk to get the 6-pack of BPs instead of a single GA boarding pass that wouldn't tell the story of the IH.

Was your IH trip on the same PNR? My inbound and outbound flights from HNL was on the same PNR, wondering if that's the case.
aoumd is offline  
Old Nov 23, 2015, 6:48 pm
  #231  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: SFO
Programs: UA GS 1MM
Posts: 693
I just did this trip on my birthday as part of a SFO-HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM-HKG-SFO routing and wanted to share a few data points.

First of all it is an amazing experience and one that will be hard to top for next year's birthday trip.

I used 2 GPUs but something wasn't quite right and should have called to check:
- SFO-HNL was not eligible but got the CPU so no big deal.
- GUM-HKG cleared at booking.
- Most importantly HKG-SFO cleared at booking which was huge considering I did this trip in 5 days.
- As for the Island Hopper: though I was #1 on the upgrade list I did not clear on any segment though some segments had open F seats.

I think this is due to the fact that:
- I flew SFO-HNL on 11/19
- Flew HNL-MAJ on 11/20 and MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM-HKG were all 11/21 as you cross the date line on HNL-MAJ
- I booked in October so no chance to have R space open up on all segments.


As for some recent questions on the thread:

- You do get the 6 pack of BPs when departing HNL. You will definitely need them if you plan on getting off the plane in any location. If there is a breeze you will likely have to chase them across the check-in area as I did

- The BPs never made it onto the United App. Not sure why.

- I was able to use the United App trick to get 7F on all segments which was nice. Thanks for that tip.

- Views are epic from either side as previously reported. If I do the trip again I will choose 7A but was quite happy with 7F.

- The mechanic does indeed sit in 7C and there are apparently 3 of them on the route. He stated he was on the Island Hopper 4 days a week. Wow!

- Braking at PNI and TKK is quite intense!

- A lot of the flyers and crew know each other well so the flights have a family atmosphere unlike any other flight I have taken.

Long story short, one of the most memorable voyages ever.
snowed is offline  
Old Nov 23, 2015, 7:15 pm
  #232  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: BDL/NYC/BOS
Programs: UA/*A Gold, Global Entry, Marriott Plat, Hilton+IHG Gold, Hertz PC, DL
Posts: 1,755
Originally Posted by snowed
- You do get the 6 pack of BPs when departing HNL. You will definitely need them if you plan on getting off the plane in any location. If there is a breeze you will likely have to chase them across the check-in area as I did
that is not the case. the single HNL-GUM 'master' boarding pass will work just fine when you get back on at any of the island airports.

thanks for the trip report!
riphamilton is offline  
Old Nov 23, 2015, 7:33 pm
  #233  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: EUG BKK
Programs: Zero Status Nexus
Posts: 432
Originally Posted by snowed
I just did this trip on my birthday as part of a SFO-HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM-HKG-SFO routing and wanted to share a few data points.
Thanks for sharing your trip report, glad you had an amazing experience! Wondering how much time you had for your TKK-GUM-HKG connection? Its rather short at 1 hr 35 mins at GUM. Are there any tips you can recommend on this connection? Doing this at the end of Feb, cant wait!
JetSetDave is offline  
Old Nov 23, 2015, 8:23 pm
  #234  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: BDL/NYC/BOS
Programs: UA/*A Gold, Global Entry, Marriott Plat, Hilton+IHG Gold, Hertz PC, DL
Posts: 1,755
Originally Posted by mtndave47
Thanks for sharing your trip report, glad you had an amazing experience! Wondering how much time you had for your TKK-GUM-HKG connection? Its rather short at 1 hr 35 mins at GUM. Are there any tips you can recommend on this connection? Doing this at the end of Feb, cant wait!
if you have checked bags, don't wait at baggage claim for them at GUM. they'll be checked through to HKG. beat everyone off the plane to GUM customs and then to re-clear security. change into something comfortable at the GUM club, as you'll sleep like a baby on the GUM-HKG flight after the exhausting day. i'm 2/2 getting a CPU on that flight as a plat, including on the saturday of the moon festival.

since you'll likely arrive at a satellite terminal at HKG, your bag(s) should beat you to baggage claim there. i normally hesitate to check bags, but it's a good idea on the hopper since you have to remove all carry-ons at each stop.

as long as you arrive HKG on time, you should be in early enough to sign up the hong kong's e-channel immigration scheme. i can't recommend it enough! it's better than US CBP global entry. you will need your physical UA mileageplus card to sign up.

also (and perhaps most importantly), dip into the GUM lounge for the chamorro chip cookies!
riphamilton is offline  
Old Nov 24, 2015, 5:02 am
  #235  
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 217
Very interesting article in AOPA Pilot magazine, written by a UA pilot, that gives an interesting perspective to the flight.

http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/A...Pilot/f_hopper

Also in regards to open F seats, I think 2 are designated for the crew to rest in and to allow recline that meets the requirements of FAR 117 they have to also block the seats immediately behind the pilot rest seats.
Wayside is offline  
Old Nov 24, 2015, 7:36 am
  #236  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: EUG BKK
Programs: Zero Status Nexus
Posts: 432
Thanks riphamilton for the transit info and the echannel tip. Cool story about the Island Hopper, interesting about the FAA exemptions on this flight.
JetSetDave is offline  
Old Nov 24, 2015, 11:02 am
  #237  
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: ONT
Programs: AA Gold, WN A-, UA S, HH ♦, IHG Spire, Hertz Prez O, TSA Disparager
Posts: 2,159
Thank you for the link. I did the E/B Hopper in 2012 for the experience.
Michael El is offline  
Old Nov 24, 2015, 11:16 am
  #238  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Austin, Texas
Programs: Airline nobody. Sad!
Posts: 26,062
Originally Posted by riphamilton
as long as you arrive HKG on time, you should be in early enough to sign up the hong kong's e-channel immigration scheme. i can't recommend it enough! it's better than US CBP global entry. you will need your physical UA mileageplus card to sign up.
Just make sure that you go to the SOUTH immigration point (the right half) at HKG when entering: there are two immigration points and two e-channel enrollment spots, but only the south hall enrollment point is open late enough for the GUM-HKG flight. Bring your physical UA status card as noted, and I believe it must be of a certain status level for UA (maybe Gold and above?). There's a thread on FT all about it somewhere.
TheBOSman is offline  
Old Nov 24, 2015, 11:16 am
  #239  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: SFO
Programs: UA GS 1MM
Posts: 693
Originally Posted by riphamilton
if you have checked bags, don't wait at baggage claim for them at GUM. they'll be checked through to HKG. beat everyone off the plane to GUM customs and then to re-clear security. change into something comfortable at the GUM club, as you'll sleep like a baby on the GUM-HKG flight after the exhausting day. i'm 2/2 getting a CPU on that flight as a plat, including on the saturday of the moon festival.

since you'll likely arrive at a satellite terminal at HKG, your bag(s) should beat you to baggage claim there. i normally hesitate to check bags, but it's a good idea on the hopper since you have to remove all carry-ons at each stop.

as long as you arrive HKG on time, you should be in early enough to sign up the hong kong's e-channel immigration scheme. i can't recommend it enough! it's better than US CBP global entry. you will need your physical UA mileageplus card to sign up.

also (and perhaps most importantly), dip into the GUM lounge for the chamorro chip cookies!
GUM: So it's not like mainland USA where you have to reclaim your bags? If so good to know for next time. Dragging my bags on and off at each stop was a pain as I need new wheels for my Rimowa

HKG: Yes you do arrive at a satellite terminal so bags should easily beat you though in my case the bus connection was quite quick. Made it onto the Airport Express in less than 15 minutes.

As for connection was a breeze at GUM at that time of the night. Had plenty of time to visit the Club and get the chamoro chip cookies you mentioned.

And yes, slept like a baby on the way to HKG.

Another interesting note, my GPU got re-deposited so now I can apply it to my last flight of the year.

Great article by the way.
snowed is offline  
Old Nov 24, 2015, 11:37 am
  #240  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: BDL/NYC/BOS
Programs: UA/*A Gold, Global Entry, Marriott Plat, Hilton+IHG Gold, Hertz PC, DL
Posts: 1,755
Originally Posted by snowed
GUM: So it's not like mainland USA where you have to reclaim your bags? If so good to know for next time. Dragging my bags on and off at each stop was a pain as I need new wheels for my Rimowa
correct. guam is somewhat unique in that guam itself handles its own customs (not US CBP), so you dont have to re-claim bags when transiting GUM. if you fly on the direct GUM-HNL, for example, you would go through US customs at HNL.

TSA does run both security and immigration at GUM; both global entry and tsa pre are available. you also get a quick immigration check at the GUM departure gate for the GUM-HNL flight by US CBP, and then you have to go through the full immigration check at HNL.

(i think i got all of that correct)
riphamilton is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service -

This site is owned, operated, and maintained by MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Designated trademarks are the property of their respective owners.