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

Old Jun 30, 2016, 1:45 pm
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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
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UA's Micronesia Island Hopper - consolidated questions, advice, ....

Old Nov 24, 2015, 1:27 pm
  #241  
 
Join Date: May 2006
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Originally Posted by riphamilton
TSA does run both security and immigration at GUM; both global entry and tsa pre are available.(i think i got all of that correct)
TSA is TSA; immigration is CBP; both are DHS.

Coming in from HNL or SPN/ROP, TSA doesn't check you. But from foreign points, yes, you go through TSA, and since you also go through CBP in all such cases, TSA is after CBP before you head back to the departure side of the terminal.

Originally Posted by riphamilton
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)
For GUM-HNL, it's an immigration check at GUM and customs check at HNL.
HkCaGu is offline  
Old Nov 28, 2015, 3:14 am
  #242  
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 16
Originally Posted by Antonio8069
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!!

Thanks Antonio!
It's glad to hear the security checkpoint opens 24 hrs. Hope that I have a smooth transfer in HNL.

Very much look forward for the island hopper flight
Tonyc1234 is offline  
Old Dec 3, 2015, 4:07 am
  #243  
 
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The Marshall Islands Are Disappearing

The NYT has some excellent coverage of the climate change talks in Paris. This article reports on what climate change means for residents of Majuro & Kwajalein. Also has some fantastic photos:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2....nav=RecEngine
Antonio8069 is offline  
Old Dec 5, 2015, 3:16 pm
  #244  
 
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UA 154 Island Hopper, best island to stop over on?

Just booked with 70K UA points. I couldn't seem to find any suggestions about stopovers online, but I want to stop at one of the islands for 2 nights. Out of:

MAJ
KWA
KSA
PNI
TKK

which island is the best? We love nature / beaches / hiking / and snorkeling.

I am leaning towards PNI because of the waterfalls but TKK and KSA also have some really cool stuff. I appreciate any feedback!

Thanks.
mspel is offline  
Old Dec 5, 2015, 3:58 pm
  #245  
 
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I think you can cross KWA off the tourist list.
rustykettel is offline  
Old Dec 5, 2015, 4:03 pm
  #246  
 
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I don't believe you'll be allowed to deplane at KWA as it is a restricted facility (at least it was a few years ago). I have stopped at MAJ and I don't really recommend it.

If you like diving/snorkeling and hiking I suggest Palau (ROR) or Yap (YAP) but they do not appear to be on your itinerary. I have been to ROR twice and YAP once and cannot wait to go back one of these days.

Both Chuuk (TKK) and Pohnpei are great dive destinations (perhaps not as nice as Yap and Palau). If you are into diving you might be able to squeeze a couple of dives during the first day of your two-day stay (no diving 24 hours before your next flight).

Wishing you an enjoyable trip!
Fivestardude is offline  
Old Dec 5, 2015, 6:15 pm
  #247  
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
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Originally Posted by mspel
Just booked with 70K UA points. I couldn't seem to find any suggestions about stopovers online, but I want to stop at one of the islands for 2 nights. Out of:

MAJ
KWA
KSA
PNI
TKK

which island is the best? We love nature / beaches / hiking / and snorkeling.

I am leaning towards PNI because of the waterfalls but TKK and KSA also have some really cool stuff. I appreciate any feedback!

Thanks.
You're only allowed off the plane at KWA if you have USDOD clearance.

KSA only is served on the Monday ex-HNL/GUM and Friday ex-HNL/GUM flights, not the Wednesday ex-HNL/GUM flights, so a stay there would be 3-4 nights not 2 nights.

I was stranded overnight in MAJ and TKK due to IRROPS in February and got to sample a bit of both islands:

TKK prides itself on the WWII shipwreck diving, the license plates even say "Diver's Haven." I didn't get a chance to sample a hotel here, we walked around the neighborhood around the airport. Lei Side Coffee Shop next to the airport was actually a nice fully sit-down restaurant.

MAJ has some hotels, but I think only the high-end B&B type hotel there has a beach. It's an interesting place to visit to see a very different corner of the world but does not necessarily have much vacation-type stuff for 2 days. Another hotel (Robert Reimers) has bungalow rooms along the lagoon while the Lojkar had large apartment hotel rooms (we were given a room at the Lojkar and it was nice). So nice places to stay but not much touristy to do.

Here is a blog by some United non-revs who have spent a lot of time on PNI and KSA:
http://www.standbysojourners.com/cat...ns/micronesia/
aoumd is offline  
Old Dec 5, 2015, 7:51 pm
  #248  
 
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Originally Posted by Fivestardude
I don't believe you'll be allowed to deplane at KWA as it is a restricted facility (at least it was a few years ago). I have stopped at MAJ and I don't really recommend it.
KWA is a destination for civilians--Ebeye, a densely populated, slum-like island full of local employees of US bases. There should be no restrictions on ticketing. If you're not DOD-business, you are ushered to the ferry to Ebeye.
HkCaGu is offline  
Old Dec 14, 2015, 12:37 am
  #249  
 
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Ua192 mnl-ror-gum

Does anyone know if passengers flying MNL-ROR-GUM on direct flight UA192 disembark during the stop at ROR? I know that transit passengers do disembark on the island hopper (UA154/155), but I haven't seen any info about the other Air Mike flights.
PVDtoDEL is offline  
Old Dec 14, 2015, 2:04 am
  #250  
 
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Originally Posted by HkCaGu
For GUM-HNL, it's an immigration check at GUM and customs check at HNL.
One interesting side effect of this if you are traveling GUM-HNL nonstop and have Global Entry - the immigration check at GUM is conducted in the gate area and there are no GE kiosks there, so you interact with a CBP agent and they put the entry stamp on your boarding pass. When you arrive HNL, you are waved through the immigration area (which contains the GE kiosks) and proceed straight to customs. I always fill out the paper customs form just in case the GE kiosks are down, but in this case I needed the paper form to give to the CBP agent when exiting the baggage claim area, since there was no opportunity (or need) to use the GE kiosks in the HNL international arrival area.
chrisj85 is offline  
Old Dec 14, 2015, 8:11 am
  #251  
 
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Entertainment options

Historically, what type of entertainment options are on the Island Hopper?

it looks like there is video on demand with a person device? Is there wifi?

most of the segments are relatively short except the HNL-MAJ segment.
sfonorth is offline  
Old Dec 15, 2015, 2:18 am
  #252  
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 5,441
Originally Posted by krazykanuck
You're quite the trooper to do UA154 twice in 1 year!
Originally Posted by sfonorth
Historically, what type of entertainment options are on the Island Hopper?

it looks like there is video on demand with a person device? Is there wifi?

most of the segments are relatively short except the HNL-MAJ segment.
The same as any other Micronesian route - i.e. overhead screens only
belfordrocks is offline  
Old Jan 25, 2016, 10:39 am
  #253  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 101
Questions about seating on island hopper

Hi all,

I'm flying island hopper next month and I have a few questions about seating on the aircraft. Hopefully people here can answer some or all of them.

The seat map for my flight is showing a peculiar 737-800 configuration that I cannot match on either seatguru or united.com's fleet info page: It is showing 3 rows of First, and row 32 is the last row of economy.

I had a suspicion that this was a 737-700 instead, and voila, upon checking SeatGuru, it matches the -700 exactly! (...even though my flight still itinerary lists 737-800.)

I then checked the seat maps for several other dates on this flight. It seems that for this Monday and Wednesday's flights, it is showing a 37 row 737-800 configuration, but for every other date thereafter, it is showing the 32 row 737-700 configuration.

Does anyone know what's going on? Will United be substituting in 737-700 for this route starting in February? Or is it just a temporary placeholder and United will swap with the right seat maps as the flight date nears in most cases (as is the case of flights this week). I noticed that for Monday and Wednesday's flights, all seats after row 32 are empty, which makes me think that these two dates were originally showing the -700 seat map as well.

Right now I have a window seat booked near the tail of the aircraft, but I am concerned that engine exhaust will blur my view. (The view is important, as it's my only reason for taking this flight.) From looking at the seat maps of the -700, it seems that the wing starts at row 7 (first row of economy plus). Does this mean that if the flight is operated by the -700, then there are NO economy seats with good views at the front of the plane?

What if this was operated by an -800 instead? I have the option of selecting row 10 in economy plus, but I fear that this may be too close to the wing even in the -800 to have a good view. I'm not sure how accurate the seat maps are with regards to wing placement, hence I hope someone here can provide an answer.

Also, with regards to upgrades to first class: Are paid upgrades ever offered on this route? I have a T fare, so GPUs are out of the question. Are RPUs possible? All of the phone agents claim that GUM-HNL is disallowed with RPUs, but are they correct that this exclusion applies to both the non-stop flight and the island hopper?

Many thanks!
Ricebucket is offline  
Old Jan 25, 2016, 3:24 pm
  #254  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Originally Posted by Ricebucket
Also, with regards to upgrades to first class: Are paid upgrades ever offered on this route? I have a T fare, so GPUs are out of the question. Are RPUs possible? All of the phone agents claim that GUM-HNL is disallowed with RPUs, but are they correct that this exclusion applies to both the non-stop flight and the island hopper?

Many thanks!
Can at least answer this. The system doesn't (or didn't for me) allow an RPU to be used as booked. After I called a few times I found an ex-Continental rep who was willing to take about 40 minutes to break apart the flight into segments, so I could select seats on each leg (I wasn't able to select seats at all as booked and prior agents would only let me select the same seat for all segments; I explained to the CO rep that I wanted to select seats on a per segment basis for the views).

An interesting side effect of breaking the flights into segments was that I was then able to apply an RPU. It hasn't cleared and I'm not sure I'll feel good about the decision if like, one segment clears. But the system let me apply it.
adcer is offline  
Old Jan 25, 2016, 7:01 pm
  #255  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Originally Posted by adcer
An interesting side effect of breaking the flights into segments was that I was then able to apply an RPU. It hasn't cleared and I'm not sure I'll feel good about the decision if like, one segment clears. But the system let me apply it.
you may also get the PQMs for each segment, turning 3801PQM for HNL-GUM into 5074 (with 500mi minimums). way to go!
riphamilton is offline  

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