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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 Aug 14, 2016, 4:14 pm
  #331  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Originally Posted by transportprof
Will the new Excursionist Perk work from either (both) GUM or HNL to enable a trip on the Island hopper?

I ask this question early, so that people who anticipate taking this adventure some day can determine whether it gets easier or harder after October.
Yes, you would be able to stop on one of the islands with the Excursionist Perk.
ctownflyer is offline  
Old Aug 21, 2016, 7:44 am
  #332  
 
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Smile Island Hopper Fare Sale

Finally I get to cross off a bucket list item!

I found a HNL-GUM (Island Hopper) - HKG ticket on 4-7-17 for $541 US

Grabbed that deal quick!
msp727 is offline  
Old Aug 21, 2016, 10:17 am
  #333  
 
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Hnl-gum-pni-maj-hnl

Hello everyone,

I'm trying to price HNL-GUM-PNI-MAJ-HNL for late september/early october. I'd like to do a quick trip spending 3 nights in Guam, 2 in Pohnpei and 2 in Majuro. This seems possible as the United hopper flight is every other day.

So, far I've managed to get the itinerary to price at about USD2000. Is this a normal price? is it normal that it all gets priced by the segment? Is there any way to make the PNI and MAJ stops be considered as layovers?

Thank you!
Aelx2k is offline  
Old Aug 21, 2016, 10:57 am
  #334  
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Originally Posted by Aelx2k
Is there any way to make the PNI and MAJ stops be considered as layovers?
Not for the durations you want. In order to be considered a connection and not a stopover, you need to adhere to the maximum for international (24 hours) or domestic (4 hours) unless it's the next flight out.
mahasamatman is offline  
Old Aug 21, 2016, 12:43 pm
  #335  
 
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Has anyone tried getting passport stamps while on the layovers?
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Old Aug 21, 2016, 4:16 pm
  #336  
 
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Originally Posted by rmannion
Has anyone tried getting passport stamps while on the layovers?
Not easy at MAJ, doable at the FSM islands if you are among the first off the plane, all but impossible at KWA.

Why is MAJ not easy? The same immigration officers process inbound and outbound passport control for the flight. They first process all the outbound passengers, then passengers are put in a departure lounge (post security and post immigration) waiting for boarding. Security closes and goes home because there are no more passengers. Then the flight arrives, and the immigration officers go to the arrivals window to process inbound passengers.

If you go through inbound passport control, you will have a hard time getting back out onto the same flight because security and outbound immigration are both closed. You will have to plead for an exception, all in the short time that the flight is on the ground. Good luck.

Could you just go to the inbound immigration window for your stamp and do a 180 the same way you came, like in some FSM stations? No, because the arrivals area at MAJ is non-sterile, and you can't get into the sterile departure lounge.
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Old Aug 21, 2016, 4:50 pm
  #337  
 
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Originally Posted by msp727
Finally I get to cross off a bucket list item!

I found a HNL-GUM (Island Hopper) - HKG ticket on 4-7-17 for $541 US

Grabbed that deal quick!
Sounds like that's one way? Still pretty good. I really want to try it out.
Taoyuan is offline  
Old Aug 21, 2016, 5:32 pm
  #338  
 
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Originally Posted by CaptainMiles
Not easy at MAJ, doable at the FSM islands if you are among the first off the plane, all but impossible at KWA.

Why is MAJ not easy? The same immigration officers process inbound and outbound passport control for the flight. They first process all the outbound passengers, then passengers are put in a departure lounge (post security and post immigration) waiting for boarding. Security closes and goes home because there are no more passengers. Then the flight arrives, and the immigration officers go to the arrivals window to process inbound passengers.

If you go through inbound passport control, you will have a hard time getting back out onto the same flight because security and outbound immigration are both closed. You will have to plead for an exception, all in the short time that the flight is on the ground. Good luck.

Could you just go to the inbound immigration window for your stamp and do a 180 the same way you came, like in some FSM stations? No, because the arrivals area at MAJ is non-sterile, and you can't get into the sterile departure lounge.
We had no issues getting a MAJ stamp, there's a special door for us crazies to go to for a stamp as described in my TR.

Would love to hear if anyone managed to get a KWA stamp.
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Old Aug 21, 2016, 5:44 pm
  #339  
 
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Originally Posted by ctownflyer
Would love to hear if anyone managed to get a KWA stamp.
I have one (along with a few others on here) during an IRROPS disaster.
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Old Aug 21, 2016, 5:52 pm
  #340  
 
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Originally Posted by edcho
I have one (along with a few others on here) during an IRROPS disaster.
Yup, I've read some of those IRROPS stories. Wish we had IRROPS at KWA instead of GUM, would've made for a more interesting story and an extra stamp at least
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Old Aug 21, 2016, 11:12 pm
  #341  
 
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Originally Posted by edcho
I have one (along with a few others on here) during an IRROPS disaster.
What is the KWA stamp like? Just a regular US stamp that says Kwajalein?
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Old Aug 30, 2016, 11:19 pm
  #342  
 
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http://www.civilbeat.org/2016/08/che...to-micronesia/

"Greater economic development in Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam is stymied by the high air fare, much of it available only on United."

here is the full article

http://www.saipantribune.com/index.p...nment-travels/

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Aug 30, 2016 at 11:25 pm
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Old Sep 8, 2016, 2:40 pm
  #343  
 
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Exclamation

I am trying to book this online with miles and came up with some issues. I wanted to plan my itinerary as follows:

EWR-TKK
TKK-ROR
SPN-EWR

For some reason the EWR-TKK segment wont show up as the hopper no matter which day I choose. Is this a valid routing? EWR-PNI works fine, but not TKK. The route is pretty much EWR to HNL on UA15 with an overnight connecting to UA154 in the AM. All the other legs work fine also. I am just wondering if I am doing something wrong or do I just have to call it in?

***UPDATE***

Nevermind. I had to add an additional segment and split up the EWR-HNL and HNL-TKK; then it worked fine.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Sep 8, 2016 at 6:58 pm Reason: merging consecutive posts by same member -- labled as UPDATE
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Old Sep 8, 2016, 2:52 pm
  #344  
 
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On another note... I am curious about everyone's opinion on whether to stay at PNI or TKK. I am pretty torn. I know about the great diving at TKK and thats swaying me, but from most reports I see more people staying at PNI....
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Old Sep 9, 2016, 7:54 pm
  #345  
 
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Only a few spots left on the FFG/UA trip.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...-w-ffg-ua.html
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