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

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

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

    Hide Wikipost
Old Jan 31, 19, 6:23 pm   -   Wikipost
Please read: This is a community-maintained wiki post containing the most important information from this thread. You may edit the Wiki once you have been on FT for 90 days and have made 90 posts.
 
Last edit by: thejaredhuang
Wiki Link
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 View Post
They just did a video in the Micronesia island hopper flight which is pretty interesting
https://youtu.be/TPueM5OF1Wc
Print Wikipost

Reply

Old Apr 30, 18, 8:43 pm
  #601  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Programs: Jet Privilege - Silver, IHG - Spire, HH - Diamond & a wallet full of other cards
Posts: 899
Originally Posted by Pseudo Nim View Post


I had the toughest time at MAJ. They _really_ didnít want to give stamps and most of my posse abandoned. But I was insistent, finally a guy acquiesced and then he got mobbed by like five flyertalks Follow the Wifi door in MAJ though. That is what got me there.

On the other islands I took another tactic: I would just go straight to immigration (not telling the welcoming staff I was in transit). Iíd just go to the desk, say Iím really transiting but need a stamp and it worked out OK. So in retrospect I wonder if I shouldíve done that in MAJ as well - although they seemed to be far better organised so that might not have worked, not sure.
What's the stop times like en route ? Wondering if it's time enough to dis-embark, make it thru immigration (including time to haggle if required) and make it back again thru immigration & back onto the plane ?
quarryking is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Apr 30, 18, 8:47 pm
  #602  
Marriott Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: YUL
Programs: Occasional RTW club
Posts: 6,046
Originally Posted by quarryking View Post
What's the stop times like en route ? Wondering if it's time enough to dis-embark, make it thru immigration (including time to haggle if required) and make it back again thru immigration & back onto the plane ?
Stops are about an hour. You donít have to completely go through immigration - just get to the officer who wonít let you out anyway - so youíre definitely OK.
Pseudo Nim is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Apr 30, 18, 8:50 pm
  #603  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Programs: Jet Privilege - Silver, IHG - Spire, HH - Diamond & a wallet full of other cards
Posts: 899
Originally Posted by Pseudo Nim View Post


Stops are about an hour. You donít have to completely go through immigration - just get to the officer who wonít let you out anyway - so youíre definitely OK.
So it's just a single stamp then (not necessarily an entry & exit stamp)..??
quarryking is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Apr 30, 18, 9:53 pm
  #604  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: CLE
Programs: UA GS+LT UC, AA LT PLT, Fairmont LT PLT, SPG PLT, Hilton Diamond, Hyatt Diamond, Avis CHM.
Posts: 3,493
Originally Posted by quarryking View Post
So it's just a single stamp then (not necessarily an entry & exit stamp)..??
I got a single departure stamp from MAJ and a single arrival stamp from KSA, PNI, and TKK.
Most unique stamp is definitely the departure from ROR.
ctownflyer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Apr 30, 18, 10:04 pm
  #605  
Marriott Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: YUL
Programs: Occasional RTW club
Posts: 6,046
Originally Posted by ctownflyer View Post
I got a single departure stamp from MAJ and a single arrival stamp from KSA, PNI, and TKK.
Most unique stamp is definitely the departure from ROR.
Same. Stud MAJ stamp says ďseenĒ.
Pseudo Nim is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Apr 30, 18, 10:37 pm
  #606  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: SFO
Programs: UA 1K, DL, WN, Global Entry; +others wherever miles/points are found
Posts: 8,148
Originally Posted by quarryking View Post
What's the stop times like en route ? Wondering if it's time enough to dis-embark, make it thru immigration (including time to haggle if required) and make it back again thru immigration & back onto the plane ?
A typical ground time is about 40 minutes. You cannot actually go through immigration proper at any of the stops. As the Hopper is the only scheduled service at many of the airports, they will have shut down security by the time the plane arrives and you will be stranded landside! If you want to get passport stamps, you have to talk to the official with the stamp and make it clear you're a transit passenger (and don't actually go through) - reports are that most of them are okay with this.

The typical layout is there will be two doors, one for the terminal (gate) and one for immigration. Transit pax who disembark are supposed to go into the gate area, although you can usually hang out on the tarmac as well.
findark is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old May 2, 18, 12:33 pm
  #607  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: New Jersey
Programs: UA MM 1K, AA MM Gold, Marriott LT Gold, Hilton Gold
Posts: 2,459
Planning this trip later this summer connecting overnight from EWR.

Anyone have some good hotel suggestions for the 18 hour layover in HNL on a Sunday night (other than Best Western referenced in the Wiki)? Understand need for early airport arrival the next morning.

Last edited by tarheelnj; May 2, 18 at 12:44 pm
tarheelnj is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old May 2, 18, 1:31 pm
  #608  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Lawrence, KS | MCI
Programs: UA*G, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott Plat., NEXUS, Amex, TSA Disparager Unobtanium
Posts: 20,126
Originally Posted by tarheelnj View Post
Planning this trip later this summer connecting overnight from EWR.

Anyone have some good hotel suggestions for the 18 hour layover in HNL on a Sunday night (other than Best Western referenced in the Wiki)? Understand need for early airport arrival the next morning.
Iíve been loyal to Hyatt for several years. As such, I always stay at the Waikiki Hyatt Regency when visiting HNL. Itís been renovated a couple times, so I find it to be very comfortable for a short or long stay.
FriendlySkies is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old May 2, 18, 1:51 pm
  #609  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: New Jersey
Programs: UA MM 1K, AA MM Gold, Marriott LT Gold, Hilton Gold
Posts: 2,459
Originally Posted by FriendlySkies View Post


Iíve been loyal to Hyatt for several years. As such, I always stay at the Waikiki Hyatt Regency when visiting HNL. Itís been renovated a couple times, so I find it to be very comfortable for a short or long stay.
Good to know. Will book the trip first, then look at things to do the afternoon/evening after getting in.
tarheelnj is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old May 2, 18, 2:03 pm
  #610  
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: DCA
Programs: United 1K 2MM, Hilton Gold
Posts: 2,476
I stayed at the BW mentioned in the Wiki (The one you are asking about alternatives to ). One big advantage is that it's walkable. It's also by Big Kahuna Pizza which was surprisingly good.
Miles Ahead is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old May 3, 18, 7:27 am
  #611  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: New Jersey
Programs: UA MM 1K, AA MM Gold, Marriott LT Gold, Hilton Gold
Posts: 2,459
Originally Posted by Miles Ahead View Post
I stayed at the BW mentioned in the Wiki (The one you are asking about alternatives to ). One big advantage is that it's walkable. It's also by Big Kahuna Pizza which was surprisingly good.
Both good inducements, thanks.
tarheelnj is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old May 3, 18, 2:03 pm
  #612  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 206
Hi all -

I have always wanted to have some excuse to fly the hopper, and I might have one but I can't figure out if it's realistic so I wanted to ask for opinions.

My 'need' is to spend about 6 days in Philippines. I would do maybe 4 days in MNL and 2 in DVO, but it's easy to catch a domestic to DVO so really we can consider it a MNL trip.

My 'want' is to (a) fly the hopper 'cause I love the scenery and the crazy route and (b) rack up some PQM along the way, since I am going to be close to UA Platinum this year.

My 'advantage' is that I have some date flexibility - can go anytime between late June and late September. Also, my business is paying for this, so it doesn't need to be a rock bottom fare.

My departure city is DEN but I can easily book from LAX or SFO or however this works.

It seems to me that, geographically this could work - Guam and HNL are roughly 'on the way' of my route so I figured maybe I could sort of force this itinerary to work. I am trying to find flights that would take me on a reasonable route to MNL, but then do some island hopping and HNL to DEN on the way home. There are direct flights HNL to DEN so I could also book that separately if need be.

Anyways, sorry for long-winded setup! My question is:

Does this even make sense? I see plenty of routing but using Google Flights I can't seem make it come up no matter what I do. How do I get these fares in front of me?

Any opinions or advice much appreciated!

thanks

Last edited by WineCountryUA; May 4, 18 at 1:13 am Reason: Merged into hopper thread
PaxALotl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old May 3, 18, 2:09 pm
  #613  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: SFO
Programs: UA 1K, DL, WN, Global Entry; +others wherever miles/points are found
Posts: 8,148
It sounds like you want to make this a paid ticket, the award thread notwithstanding?

This should be fairly easy, just do a multi-city search on ua.com or ITA Matrix and make sure that your timings (choice of day) line up so that you are flying when the flights are operating and don't spend more than 24h00 at a transfer point. Generally you want to consider GUM-HNL as a "separate" sector so that the Hopper shows up as a choice.

Note that the DEN/MNL fare templates have the fully updated Hopper exception in the Q schedule, which will hit you hard (and may complicate making this a work trip):

Code:
   AND - MISCELLANEOUS/OTHER SURCHARGE OF USD 500.00 PER
         DIRECTION WILL BE ADDED TO THE APPLICABLE FARE
         PER ADULT,ALLOWING CHILD/INFANT DISCOUNTS IF THE
         FARE COMPONENT INCLUDES TRAVEL ON ONE OR MORE OF
         THE FOLLOWING
                 UA FLIGHT 154
                 UA FLIGHT 155
                 UA FLIGHT 132
                 UA FLIGHT 133.
findark is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old May 3, 18, 2:14 pm
  #614  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 206
Embarrassingly, I read this whole thread and didn't realize that the title specified Award travel! Yes, looking for a paid ticket. I don't want to screw up this thread so maybe this should be a separate thread, and I need to ask some newbie questions. Like, by 'sector' do you mean by separate sector? A whole different reservation?
PaxALotl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old May 3, 18, 2:54 pm
  #615  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: SFO
Programs: UA 1K, DL, WN, Global Entry; +others wherever miles/points are found
Posts: 8,148
Don't worry - the mods will come by and sort it out at some point.

By "separate" sector, I mean to pretend like it's a separate segment when you do a multi-city search. You will actually get a single fare component from MNL all the way to DEN, but searching like that won't return MNL-GUM-hopper-HNL-DEN (or at least it isn't likely to) because the engine is optimizing on travel time and number of stops. If you search GUM-HNL specifically, the Hopper is high enough up to choose.

The multi-city search is smart enough to realize that your "breaks" are actually less than 24h00 and are really just connections, and stitch things back together afterwards.
findark is online now  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread