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

Old Jun 30, 2016, 1:45 pm
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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 1/14/19)?
UA154 (the full Hopper) departs HNL Mon/Fri and flies HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM.
The shorter UA154 flies from HNL on Wed and does HNL-MAJ-KWA-PNI-TKK-GUM (skips KSA).
UA132 departs Sun and flies HNL-MAJ-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM (skips KWA).

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 Aug 16, 2013, 12:57 am
  #16  
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Originally Posted by SirJman
I never got it to work. Stopovers were impossible too.
I failed too, but it is possible--I had one agent willing to do it, but only if I applied a RPU to the route. R was wide open on 5/6 flights so I said no, thinking (incorrectly) I would clear segment by segment at the airport. Bad mistake.
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Old Aug 29, 2013, 12:47 pm
  #17  
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I've got 6 boarding passes for the island hopper tomorrow. Even one for MAJ-KWA. Is this standard, or would this imply that UA has somehow split the segments.
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Old Aug 29, 2013, 12:49 pm
  #18  
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Originally Posted by Red Raider LV
I've got 6 boarding passes for the island hopper tomorrow. Even one for MAJ-KWA. Is this standard, or would this imply that UA has somehow split the segments.
Split. I only had one from HNL-GUM. Did you get CPUs up to TKK?

How does it appear when you pull up the reservation online?

And if you did split them, please detail how, because I failed after three hours of repeated calls.
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Old Aug 29, 2013, 12:57 pm
  #19  
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Originally Posted by MatthewLAX
Split. I only had one from HNL-GUM. Did you get CPUs up to TKK?

How does it appear when you pull up the reservation online?

And if you did split them, please detail how, because I failed after three hours of repeated calls.
I called twice to split it, and it was to no avail each time. I have no clue what happened.

On the website it still just shows one segment, but I'm #1 on the UG list for HNL-MAJ. I'll share how everything goes.

My only concern at this point is making sure I'm accounted for as having boarded the KWA-KSA flight since I can't get off.

OK, so an update on this for those interested. While I received a separate BP for every segment, I only got miles as if I flew HNL-GUM. I appeared to be the only through passenger with separate BPs, so the fact that I only went in to the transit area of each airport could be the reason I didn't get credit for each individual segment.

I think if you were to successfully split each segment you'd have to clear immigration at each station and check in. When you board from the holding area they just take a quick look at your ticket. There is no scanning or anything like that involved.

On a side note, the former Air Mike crews are top notch. All in all the island hopper was a great experience. I had a lot of fun.

Last edited by iluv2fly; Sep 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm Reason: merge
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Old Sep 3, 2013, 12:36 pm
  #20  
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Originally Posted by Red Raider LV
I called twice to split it, and it was to no avail each time. I have no clue what happened.

On the website it still just shows one segment, but I'm #1 on the UG list for HNL-MAJ. I'll share how everything goes.

My only concern at this point is making sure I'm accounted for as having boarded the KWA-KSA flight since I can't get off.

OK, so an update on this for those interested. While I received a separate BP for every segment, I only got miles as if I flew HNL-GUM. I appeared to be the only through passenger with separate BPs, so the fact that I only went in to the transit area of each airport could be the reason I didn't get credit for each individual segment.

I think if you were to successfully split each segment you'd have to clear immigration at each station and check in. When you board from the holding area they just take a quick look at your ticket. There is no scanning or anything like that involved.

On a side note, the former Air Mike crews are top notch. All in all the island hopper was a great experience. I had a lot of fun.
Did you get upgraded from HNL-MAJ? How about the other segments?

I was number one on the upgrade list too for each flight, but they skipped over me for the upgrade because the idiot and apathetic ex-Con agent said all or nothing and there was no R on TKK-GUM. Gosh, my blood boils still thinking about that, especially when business went out with open seats...

But indeed, the Air Mike crew was great.
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Old Sep 3, 2013, 1:01 pm
  #21  
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Originally Posted by MatthewLAX
but they skipped over me for the upgrade because the idiot and apathetic ex-Con agent said all or nothing and there was no R on TKK-GUM.
WOW, that's just ridiculous

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Old Nov 24, 2013, 3:35 pm
  #22  
 
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Island Hopper changed (to nonstop by UA auto-rebooking; how to prevent?)

I am booked on the CO Mike island hopper (5-stopper; HNL-GUM) in May of next year and earlier today found that I'd been moved to the nonstop 777 despite the fact that UA154's schedule hasn't changed. I called UA and explained that the only reason for the trip is to experience the Island Hopper, and the agent (after initially claiming that UA154 no longer operates) was perplexed as to why my schedule had been changed. She had no problem switching the HNL-GUM segment back to UA154. Agent did advise, however, that the change was automated and to "keep my eye on it" because it will likely change again.

I have two questions (one rhetorical):

1. Is there anything I can do to make sure this change isn't made again?

2. Why should I have to risk losing my window seat and waste my time and energy calling (potentially multiple times) to get my originally booked flights back because UA arbitrarily decides that I'd prefer the nonstop instead of what I purposely booked?

With all of the "changes I'll like" in the past 18-24 months, it's still little things like this that absolutely boil my blood. If they change it again, I'm likely to just say screw it and cancel the whole damned (fully refundable) thing.

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Nov 24, 2013 at 5:45 pm Reason: details were missing from thread title
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Old Nov 24, 2013, 3:50 pm
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My guess is UA makes more money on the island hopper than on the nonstop, due to the monopoly stranglehold they have on the islands in-between. Since the island hopper is often full, they perhaps try to make space by booking people on the island hopper on the nonstop. Of course, that doesn't help you if the island hopper what you intentionally paid. They should have a system that would ask you to move to the nonstop for free, instead of just moving you for no reason.
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Old Nov 24, 2013, 4:00 pm
  #24  
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If UA wants to sell that flight only in a piecemeal basis, it should inhibit the sale as a thru-flight, price it segment by segment only, or have a different price for that flight. There are plenty of ways to protect the integrity of the revenue it believes it can command, apart from simply taking people who have booked it and putting them on another flight.

The problem is that the OP purchased carriage from X to Y, and there isn't much one can do if the airline provides that service within the general time parameters of the original ticket.

Effing You --------> Friendly!
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Old Nov 24, 2013, 4:07 pm
  #25  
 
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Originally Posted by claurianta2
My guess is UA makes more money on the island hopper than on the nonstop, due to the monopoly stranglehold they have on the islands in-between.
Exactly - in their eyes you are "hogging" a seat from point A to point B they could sell multiple times... When I lived in Japan I did this once - pretty cool and highly recommended!
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Old Feb 5, 2014, 7:49 pm
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Booked it at the end of an award to China/Japan (don't worry, I have 2.5 days in HNL to recover before back to the grind)! Doing the eastward route, it honestly didn't look too bad time-wise, you leave at 8:20 from GUM so I imagine it should be reasonably light out!

Anyone able to grab a passport stamp or two doing this?

DD
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Old Feb 6, 2014, 7:05 am
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I did it in January, but I was not able to get any passport stamps because I never left the waiting area of the airport. I don't think they really encourage that and at least at TKK where I paid attention, security was closed down already when we arrived and every boarding passenger already in the waiting area. If you tried, you'd probably need an immigration agent to be nice and give you an in and out stamp without actually leaving the secure side of the airport. By all means, ask, but for me it seemed like too much trouble given the time on the ground and the number of passengers being processed (there is more passenger churn than you might think).
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Old Feb 6, 2014, 8:28 am
  #28  
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Originally Posted by Daichovo
Booked it at the end of an award to China/Japan (don't worry, I have 2.5 days in HNL to recover before back to the grind)! Doing the eastward route, it honestly didn't look too bad time-wise, you leave at 8:20 from GUM so I imagine it should be reasonably light out!

Anyone able to grab a passport stamp or two doing this?

DD
I tried, but there really isn't enough time. Your best shot is at MAJ.
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Old Feb 6, 2014, 8:57 am
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You've got a better chance of a passport stamp if you drift to Majuro. http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/06/world/...html?hpt=hp_t1
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Old Feb 6, 2014, 7:46 pm
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a few years ago, i was able to do
http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=xnn-pek...go-icn-pek-szx

for 20000 miles.
unfortunately, it is not longer possible. it was such a great trip (and a half)
when i took my parents with me to these places.

Thank you united airline, you will be missed.
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