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: thejaredhuang
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
Print Wikipost

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

Old Jul 23, 2014, 8:36 pm
  #91  
jyh
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: South Louisiana
Posts: 193
Originally Posted by pinks
Chuuk is one of the more dangerous islands in the Pacific. Diving friends in Yap and Palau told many stories about how the locals like to randomly beat people up. Make sure wherever you stay is gated and don't stray from your hotel.

That being said, LP recommends Blue Lagoon Resort as having one of the few safe bars. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/federate...rmation/health
Sad to hear this. If there is one place left in the world that I thought was idyllic it would be Pacific islands.
jyh is offline  
Old Jul 27, 2014, 11:46 am
  #92  
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Canada
Programs: Star Alliance G*, Marriott Bonvoy Titanium,
Posts: 3,590
Question UA cancels Flight 167/168 - should I be concerned?

Airline Route posted a reduction in GUM-NRT service, effective Feb 1, 2015 - March 28, 2015:
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#se...7731121077cae7
The post states that UA 167/168 are cancelled over this period.

I did not know what that meant for my mid-Feb voyage on the Island Hopper? (My routing is HNL-NRT-GUM-TKK (stop) -PNI - HNL). So I called UA and discovered that not only did my flight #'s change, the aircraft also changed (from a 737 to a 777).

Should I be concerned about the change? i.e. am I less likely to see the Marshall Islands?
Antonio8069 is offline  
Old Jul 27, 2014, 7:25 pm
  #93  
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 638
Just look up the new flight numbers and see how long the total trip time is. My guess is that you got moved to the non-stop GUM-HNL flight.
flyingnosh is offline  
Old Jul 28, 2014, 2:31 am
  #94  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: LAS, SAT, IAH
Programs: Flying Nut
Posts: 6,365
Originally Posted by sbm12
Quote:





Originally Posted by spearsba


I've gone to Kwajalein twice per year for ten years and never had my passport stamped...




One of the guys in our group asked and they went and found the stamp.
I resemble that comment! ;-)
Scott6067 is offline  
Old Jul 28, 2014, 10:07 am
  #95  
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 243
depending on your booking...you can leave on mon, wed, fri and go east on the island hopper to see RMI. Or you could leave tues,thurs, sat and you will go back to guam and do a direct from there to HNL. Travel time is about the same from PNI so seeing the Marshalls would be worth it - they are quite spectacular to see a country made up entrirely of atolls....little strips of beach in the middle of the ocean

Originally Posted by Antonio8069
Airline Route posted a reduction in GUM-NRT service, effective Feb 1, 2015 - March 28, 2015:
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#se...7731121077cae7
The post states that UA 167/168 are cancelled over this period.

I did not know what that meant for my mid-Feb voyage on the Island Hopper? (My routing is HNL-NRT-GUM-TKK (stop) -PNI - HNL). So I called UA and discovered that not only did my flight #'s change, the aircraft also changed (from a 737 to a 777).

Should I be concerned about the change? i.e. am I less likely to see the Marshall Islands?
be001 is offline  
Old Jul 31, 2014, 2:32 am
  #96  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Up in the Air
Programs: AC/EK
Posts: 248
Just stop-over in each country. I'm planning to do so in December - the OW fare runs around $1700.
Baldpacker is offline  
Old Jul 31, 2014, 2:59 am
  #97  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: LAS HNL
Programs: DL DM, 5.7 MM, UA 3.1 MM, MARRIOTT PLATINUM, AVIS FIRST, Amex Black Card
Posts: 4,479
Originally Posted by Baldpacker
Just stop-over in each country. I'm planning to do so in December - the OW fare runs around $1700.
Not in FC.

And what Country?
kettle1 is offline  
Old Jul 31, 2014, 9:13 am
  #98  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Up in the Air
Programs: AC/EK
Posts: 248
Originally Posted by kettle1
Not in FC.

And what Country?
For $1715 you can fly MNL>ROR>>GUM>PNI>MAJ>HNL with layovers in ROR, PNI & MAJ so Palau, Micronesia, and Marshall Islands...
Baldpacker is offline  
Old Jul 31, 2014, 9:18 am
  #99  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Atherton, CA
Programs: UA 1K, AA EXP; Owner, Green Bay Packers
Posts: 21,690
Cool

Originally Posted by theise
My brother has a rule that you can't count a place as having been visited unless you peed outside of the airport.

...so be darned sure that chain link fence ain't electrified.
Doc Savage is offline  
Old Jul 31, 2014, 9:48 am
  #100  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: 6km East of EPAYE
Programs: UA Silver, AA Platinum, AS & DL GM Marriott TE, Hilton Gold
Posts: 9,582
Originally Posted by theise
My brother has a rule that you can't count a place as having been visited unless you peed outside of the airport.
Hmmmmmm this rule significantly reduces the number of countries I've been in.
Madone59 is offline  
Old Aug 24, 2014, 7:34 pm
  #101  
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: BOS
Programs: DL DM
Posts: 107
I took the Island Hopper (HNL-GUM) on August 15/16, 2014. I was able to get an RMI passport stamp in Majuro and a FSM passport stamp in Pohnpei as a transit customer.

I posted a trip report on the National Park Travelers Club website: http://www.parkstamps.org/e107_plugi...c.php?130121.0


scottsinct is offline  
Old Oct 14, 2014, 12:25 am
  #102  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: PDX/OGG/HKG
Programs: UA MM/Plat, AS MVP
Posts: 53
I just flew it.
There were three mileage-runners on my flight.
We all tried to get passport stamps and were all denied.
I will post logistics/lessons learned in the Jan 2015 thread and photos if anyone requests them.
However, it is worth taking this flight (westbound only).
pspark is offline  
Old Jan 2, 2015, 12:57 pm
  #103  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: NYC
Programs: UA Platinum, Alaska MVP Gold
Posts: 223
Flew the island hopper back in September. I had booked the flight 10 months in advance using M&M miles. Three times (more or less every other month, for the first 6 months after booking) UA tried to move me to the non-stop, three times I had to call, have the original reservation re-established, and had the agent add a note to the reservation asking that it not be changed.
It's a cool experience - have fun.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Jan 2, 2015 at 2:09 pm Reason: merged into consolidated thread
kenadams is offline  
Old Jan 8, 2015, 5:41 am
  #104  
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Canada
Programs: Star Alliance G*, Marriott Bonvoy Titanium,
Posts: 3,590
booking on AP

Originally Posted by kenadams
Flew the island hopper back in September. I had booked the flight 10 months in advance using M&M miles. Three times (more or less every other month, for the first 6 months after booking) UA tried to move me to the non-stop, three times I had to call, have the original reservation re-established, and had the agent add a note to the reservation asking that it not be changed.
It's a cool experience - have fun.
I had a similar experience booking on Aeroplan points. UA had a schedule change and the customer service folk had great difficulty understanding why I wanted to fly on UA 154! I ended up cancelling & re-booking. A bonus is I get stopovers in ROR and MNL (in lieu of GUM). Going in mid-Feb and I can't wait!
Antonio8069 is offline  
Old Jan 9, 2015, 4:47 pm
  #105  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: CBR
Programs: QF, Velocity, AA
Posts: 284
I'm doing the Island Hopper departing HNL on 1/26, and have an overnight layover in GUM before my flight the next morning to MNL. Does anyone know if I'll be able to have my luggage checked to only GUM?

The UA website says that they will only check you to the overnight stop, but just want to confirm this actually works in practice? Never been on UA before....
ryanbryan 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.