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: 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
Print Wikipost

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

Old Jan 7, 2022, 8:17 am
  #1051  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: MSP
Programs: DL PM, UA Gold, WN, Global Entry; +others wherever miles/points are found
Posts: 14,720
Originally Posted by oskiboski
Yeah but timatic show transit with deboarding etc. It is more like pitstop
For much of the pandemic, UA was enforcing this for boarding the Hopper at all, and rebooking onto the nonstop HNL-GUM. People from FSM going to the States had to back-connect in GUM.

The issue is what if the plane is disabled in MAJ? It sounds like they may permit some through pax now with very strict regulation, but there was certainly a period where you would be denied boarding on the Hopper if you were not able to transit all the stops.
SPN Lifer and NishinomiyaDada like this.
findark is online now  
Old Jan 7, 2022, 9:39 am
  #1052  
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Location: WAW/TLV/BER
Programs: HH diamond/LH Senator/Elite plus
Posts: 114
Damn.. This ticket was MIA-SFO-HNL-GUM-NRT for few dime. I change it for mia-iah-hnl-hopper-gum-nrt. Skipping hopper will be disaster
oskiboski is offline  
Old Jan 7, 2022, 10:51 am
  #1053  
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: YVR
Programs: UA 1K
Posts: 981
Originally Posted by oskiboski
Damn.. This ticket was MIA-SFO-HNL-GUM-NRT for few dime. I change it for mia-iah-hnl-hopper-gum-nrt. Skipping hopper will be disaster
UA will probably put you on the nonstop HNL-GUM unless you give them a good reason to keep you on the hopper. On the bright side, you'll get a free meal in Y now on HNL-GUM.
SPN Lifer and N107UA like this.
kevflyer is offline  
Old Jan 7, 2022, 11:41 am
  #1054  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: IAH, YYC
Programs: UA 1K
Posts: 771
Originally Posted by oskiboski
Damn.. This ticket was MIA-SFO-HNL-GUM-NRT for few dime. I change it for mia-iah-hnl-hopper-gum-nrt. Skipping hopper will be disaster
slightly off topic, but what was your plan for being able to take a NRT bound flight in the first place since Japan isn't allowing foreigners into the country?
NishinomiyaDada likes this.
david_oz is offline  
Old Jan 8, 2022, 5:42 am
  #1055  
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: OSA, TUS
Programs: ANA, JAL
Posts: 19
Originally Posted by oskiboski
Damn.. This ticket was MIA-SFO-HNL-GUM-NRT for few dime. I change it for mia-iah-hnl-hopper-gum-nrt. Skipping hopper will be disaster
Look at the difficulty for the Marshallese to repatriate (1) then please reconsider this post and how much of a "disaster" it will be. Even larger, more developed islands like Okinawa are having huge strains to their medical infrastructure (2). Given the current situation it is unethical to fly the Hopper for enjoyment given the possibility, no matter how small, of bringing the virus to these islands.
(1) https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/...vid-quarantine
(2) https://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0008162513
NishinomiyaDada is offline  
Old Jan 8, 2022, 7:58 am
  #1056  
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Location: WAW/TLV/BER
Programs: HH diamond/LH Senator/Elite plus
Posts: 114
Originally Posted by david_oz
slightly off topic, but what was your plan for being able to take a NRT bound flight in the first place since Japan isn't allowing foreigners into the country?
Emirates to DXB for EXPO sameday flight
uanj and kirkwoodj like this.
oskiboski is offline  
Old Jan 16, 2022, 8:06 pm
  #1057  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Saipan, MP 96950 USA (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands = the CNMI)
Programs: UA Silver, Hilton Silver. Life: UA .58 MM, United & Admirals Clubs (spousal), Marriott Platinum
Posts: 15,574
A two-year-old engineering report that declared the main airport terminal in Majuro (MAJ) to be unsafe but was not acted on became a major topic of discussion at the Republic of the Marshall Islands (R.M.I.) parliament this week, with the government moving develop a temporary fix to the problems.

https://mvariety.com/news/majuro-air...50b05c597.html

At the United Airlines check-in area at Amata Kabua International Airport in Majuro, the airline recently vacated its office behind the check in area due to safety hazards and a just-discovered two-year-old engineering report that confirms the main terminal roof poses a danger of collapse.
SPN Lifer is offline  
Old Jan 16, 2022, 9:09 pm
  #1058  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Northeast Kansas | Colorado Native
Programs: Amex Gold/Plat, UA *G, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott LT Gold, NEXUS, TSA Disparager Unobtanium
Posts: 21,761
Yikes.

United Airlines vacated its office in the main terminal in November after when an employee fell through the termite damaged second floor.
FriendlySkies is online now  
Old Jan 16, 2022, 9:14 pm
  #1059  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: DCA, IAD (not BWI if I can help it)
Programs: UA 1MM 1K, Marriott Gold, Hyatt Explorist, status-free on AA, AS, B6, DL, WN, Amtrak, etc.
Posts: 1,482
Originally Posted by SPN Lifer
A two-year-old engineering report that declared the main airport terminal in Majuro (MAJ) to be unsafe but was not acted on became a major topic of discussion at the Republic of the Marshall Islands (R.M.I.) parliament this week, with the government moving develop a temporary fix to the problems.
https://mvariety.com/news/majuro-air...50b05c597.html
From that story:

United Airlines vacated its office in the main terminal in November after when an employee fell through the termite damaged second floor. United officials said they had been communicating with the Ports Authority for many months about the deteriorating condition of the office area.
Reading about termites eating away at an airport terminal does put my EWR and IAD gripes in perspective.
SPN Lifer and Parterre like this.
DCA writer is offline  
Old Jan 16, 2022, 9:16 pm
  #1060  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Hilton Contributor BadgeMarriott Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: TOA
Programs: HH Diamond, Marriott LTPP/Platinum Premier, Hyatt Lame-ist, UA !K
Posts: 20,061
Originally Posted by DCA writer
Reading about termites eating away at an airport terminal does put my EWR and IAD gripes in perspective.
They have metal termites in EWR and IAD?

David
uanj likes this.
DELee is offline  
Old Jan 17, 2022, 9:01 am
  #1061  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Programs: SQ, QF, UA, CO, DL
Posts: 3,099
Originally Posted by FriendlySkies
Yikes.
Double yikes.
uanj is offline  
Old Jan 18, 2022, 7:46 pm
  #1062  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: TPE, SFO, PAE
Posts: 893
United Airlines vacated its office in the main terminal in November after when an employee fell through the termite damaged second floor.
I did not remember MAJ had a second floor so I went back to check the pictures. The floors certainly didn't look like termite-resistant

ithinkurdumb is offline  
Old Jan 18, 2022, 8:02 pm
  #1063  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Hilton Contributor BadgeMarriott Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: TOA
Programs: HH Diamond, Marriott LTPP/Platinum Premier, Hyatt Lame-ist, UA !K
Posts: 20,061
Originally Posted by ithinkurdumb
I did not remember MAJ had a second floor so I went back to check the pictures. The floors certainly didn't look like termite-resistant

At least the walls and paneling aren't.

David
DELee is offline  
Old Jan 19, 2022, 3:19 pm
  #1064  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Saipan, MP 96950 USA (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands = the CNMI)
Programs: UA Silver, Hilton Silver. Life: UA .58 MM, United & Admirals Clubs (spousal), Marriott Platinum
Posts: 15,574
United suspends service to Majuro (MAJ) for at least one month.

https://mvariety.com/news/united-sus...9b63423dd.html
uanj likes this.
SPN Lifer is offline  
Old Jan 19, 2022, 6:01 pm
  #1065  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Programs: SQ, QF, UA, CO, DL
Posts: 3,099
Originally Posted by SPN Lifer
United suspends service to Majuro (MAJ) for at least one month.

https://mvariety.com/news/united-sus...9b63423dd.html
Hopefully this will product the airport in taking action finally. Do you know what the APA flights are that the articles refers to?
uanj 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.