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The IRROPS saga of UA154 (Island Hopper) of Friday the 13th

The IRROPS saga of UA154 (Island Hopper) of Friday the 13th

Old Feb 16, 15, 1:05 pm
  #16  
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Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
Though it sure does tell you something when they fly a second set of pilots
FAA rules. :-:

Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
and a mechanic.
Well, yeah, that bit is different.

Originally Posted by HkCaGu View Post
Westbound Island Hoppers are Tue/Thu/Sat,...
Westbound leaves HNL on M/W/F (1/3/5 in the timetable). There is a dateline issue but the Friday flight - when on time - arrives at 17:55 Saturday which gives a 1:35 connection to make the GUM-HKG flight.

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Feb 16, 15 at 1:12 pm Reason: Merge
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Old Feb 16, 15, 1:15 pm
  #17  
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Great report. Sounds like a very cool adventure
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Old Feb 16, 15, 3:13 pm
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Congratulations for completing the Island Hopper!

I've flown the Island Hopper four times in my life, all west bound. There used to be a stop on Johnston Atoll located between HNL and MAJ, but that was eliminated when the U.S. closed down their operations there. Of those four times, only once did the flight go IRROP and the delay started in HNL due to a radar issue. It took about three hours to fix and we departed HNL. The crew was already informing us inflight to MAJ that they would likely time out at some point, but that they would continue to fly as long as legally possible for them. So we made it to PNI and called it quits for the day. Since all the food is loaded in HNL only (except the pre packaged snacks and drinks) and would have expired prior to the continuation of our flight the next morning, then CO worked with my hotel in PNI to have meals made for all of us and loaded on the aircraft for the TKK-GUM segment. It was quite the experience, but awesome to see how then CO (now UA) pulled together their resources to ensure we were all taken care of.

Glad to hear that the Tide Table on MAJ is still alive and very well and about your experiences across the islands. If you have any photos please post them when you can.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 3:15 pm
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Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
Though it sure does tell you something when they fly a second set of pilots and a mechanic.
I flew the Island Hopper three times between 1997 and 2005, all HNL-KWA. (In 1997, it was a 727 and had the extra stop at Johnston Atoll.)

I recall the mechanic, but do not recall an extra set of pilots. Perhaps the rules changed in the past 10 years.

Quite a trip!

David
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Old Feb 16, 15, 3:26 pm
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aoumd gave a pretty good description of what happened. I'll add a couple of extra details from my point of view.

While the Island Hopper wasn't on my "bucket list" per se, when I saw aoumd mention the trip in a Facebook post (we're friends and former coworkers), I decided the trip was worth booking. My routing is ex-YYJ, having lived on the west coast of Canada for nearly two years now.

My first troubles with this trip started at booking. United.com showed the fare YYJ-SFO-HNL-GUM-HKG-NRT-SFO-YVR-YYJ as around $840 USD. I booked the trip, got my initial confirmation email, and waited for it to ticket. It never did. I forgot about it for a few days, and when I went back to check on it on the web, the whole PNR was gone. After calling United, they said they could sell me the ticket over the phone, but it would cost $1500. While I was on the phone with them, I did the same search again, and saw the fare was $809. So I booked that, and same deal, never ticketed. Called back right away, and after a bit of trouble they finally got it ticketed. At first, they tried to blame Air Canada (final leg codeshare) for the problems, but the explanation didn't make any sense. Long story short on that, it may have been because the trip started in YYJ, so the fares were Canadian dollar based, but since my banking still uses a U.S. address, the fare was quoted in US dollars, and the computer just...whatever.

Anyway, with it ticketed, I could then go onto the next (and arguably most important) part of the trip planning process: upgrades. Specifically, UA838 NRT-SFO, operated with a 747. One thing definitely on my bucket list is to ride upstairs on a 747. The UA site was showing wait list available using cash and miles. I did a bit of research using FT, trip reports, seatguru, etc., and determined that 15K was the best upper deck seat. Of course, waitlist is always a gamble on if/when it will clear, and whether or not any upstairs seats will even be available. But none of that mattered, because when I went a day later to add myself to the list, it went from "Waitlist available" to "Upgrades available," so I was able to snag 15K right off the bat!

Fast forward to the start of the trip, and, just like aoumd's experience, the first two legs were just fine (well, as fine as they can be when your first leg is on a CRJ). We met up in SFO and waited in the United Club for the flight. Uneventful flight to HNL, enjoyed the beach, then overnighted with an early wake-up for UA154.

On the way to HNL, I checked the United app and was excited to see my first-ever CPU clear, for the GUM-HKG leg later that day (technically, the next day, since we cross the international date line). I've been a silver for just a year, but since I live in Canada, most of my flying has been on AC, and a couple of long-haul flights in LH, so even if silvers had any kind of a chance at getting CPUs, it wouldn't matter much anyway since I'm not on UA metal as much.

One interesting thing for me was that the check-in computers printed out a separate boarding pass for each segment (though apparently agents can combine that into one BP for your whole journey).

Pass riders and stand-bys apparently have to claim a new BP for each segment, on arrival at each intermediate stop.

Except for the last-minute baggage issue, we were ready to go on time. While I hadn't been following 154's performance, I was told that it can often depart quite late, so a 16-minute delay on push back is close enough to on time.

When the first delay hit, my initial thought (like any good FTer) was "I hope I can make my connection, because my upgrade already cleared and it would suck to lose it." (While I was going to say that a FTer's first thought would be "how much compensation am I due," I think that is so obvious that it almost doesn't even count.)

The clock was ticking, and soon it became apparent that the connection would be missed even if they managed to fix the plane. There was a glimmer of hope for connections (but not for the island hopping experience) in that, if they could get the plane fixed, they were considering taking all of the GUM-bound pax and sending them out nonstop, having the rescue plane take the local passengers the next day. In any event, that did not happen.

As mentioned in the OP, while on the ground in MAJ, we met another gentleman also doing the island-hop-then-HKG connection. We soon created a makeshift "party of three" for our travel. When they asked strangers to join together to share hotel rooms, we were rewarded with the nice three-bed apartment suite. Many of the appliances in that suite were brand new and still had their plastic cover/film on the surfaces.

I'll also note that, at least for the delay in MAJ, the vast majority of the passengers, while frustrated, seemed to be in good spirits. One key exception was a guy (presumably a defense contractor, given that his destination was KWA) who had to be the most impatient SOB I've met in a long time. When we were being given hotel and meal vouchers, I was waiting in the premier line (even the tiniest island airports have a premier line). The passenger at the counter had just received her vouchers, and hadn't even cleared the desk yet when this guy starts pushing me (literally giving my backpack a shove) up to the counter thinking that it will all go faster if I get to the agent four seconds sooner. Later, when the agent asked for the PNR info of the other two in our group sharing a hotel, I waved one guy over to get his boarding pass (he was waiting for his checked bag in the baggage area), and Mr. Impatient got an attitude with him for "cutting in line."

But that was the only really negative person (passenger, crew, staff, local resident, or otherwise) I encountered on the whole trip.

I did notice an increased frustration level during the delay in TKK. However, I figure that was for a couple of reasons. First, of course, is that it was the second major delay on the trip. Second was probably because, while in MAJ most folks were getting off before GUM, and thus rebooking/connections didn't matter, in TKK everybody was going to GUM, anyone with a connection had long-since missed it, and there were no available hotels in GUM to accommodate people who didn't already have reservations. Still, most folks kept in good demeanor.

Since we had to get new boarding passes in TKK, I asked the agent there to print out the rest of them for my journey (having now been rerouted GUM direct to NRT for 838 to SFO).

The one thing on my mind was making sure I still had 15K. Once the agent confirmed my GUM-NRT seat, she cancelled out my now no-longer-needed HKG-NRT leg on NH. The boarding passes then printed, and I immediately checked the "important" one, and saw that I was now in seat 52B. 52B, of course, is decidedly not 15K. I pointed this out immediately, saying that I had 15K, and would really like that seat back.

The agent apologized, and did some more typing into the computer. Her explanation was that apparently the upgrade dropped out once the NH segment of the through fare was cancelled.

After another couple of minutes of typing, she printed out a new boarding pass. Still not 15K, not on the upper deck, and in fact not in Business at all. Lest anyone think that I'm upset over that turn of events, I'm not, because the BP she gave me listed my new seat assignment as 3A (for those not familiar with the UA 747, and don't feel like looking it up, 3A is in the nose section, in Global First).

I thanked the agent for her hard work, but didn't ask how I wound up in F (partly not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, and partly because there were still 70 or 80 people that needed to be checked in).

At some point in admiring the new boarding passes I'd received, I saw that instead of a ticket number, it just listed the word "Paper" in the corner of the boarding pass. I have just enough knowledge of things to realize that I did not actually have paper tickets, but not enough to know whether I'd actually need to obtain one (but suspected that something was up). On arrival in GUM, I decided to ask an agent about it. I'm glad I did, because it took the agent 45 minutes to fix the problem. Had I not noticed, I would have gone right to the gate later that day and not had the problem discovered until boarding. Fixing it may have meant missing the flight, meaning I would have been very unhappy.

For those wondering why it wasn't noticed in TKK, I don't really have an answer. It wasn't caught when I boarded UA189 because they don't have scanners at these small island airports, just a visual inspection of the BP.

GUM-NRT was uneventful, the Global a First lounge in NRT was great. UA838 was on time with excellent service in first (way too much food, but all good), and I'm no waiting in the Global First lounge in SFO to finish my homeward journey.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 4:11 pm
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You need to write novels and short stories..this was fascinating!!!

The compensation offer was NOT fascinating though
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Old Feb 16, 15, 4:20 pm
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so lucky.... i had to visited both MAJ and YAP on my own dim....
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Old Feb 16, 15, 4:28 pm
  #23  
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An amazing report and a memorable journey - the challenging ones are those we remember the most.

I'll second the call that UA's compensation offer here falls way short of what should be expected for such an extraordinary chain of events - that offer would insult even a no-status passenger on a cheap fare. They better cough up more than that.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 4:39 pm
  #24  
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Originally Posted by bocastephen View Post
An amazing report and a memorable journey - the challenging ones are those we remember the most.

I'll second the call that UA's compensation offer here falls way short of what should be expected for such an extraordinary chain of events - that offer would insult even a no-status passenger on a cheap fare. They better cough up more than that.
I wonder if they'll treat the TKK situation separately, or be able to see the compendium of issues for passengers affected by BOTH issues (even passengers boarding after MAJ were affected by both events, as the MAJ delay made their flight a day late). While I'm not too cranky given the nature of my particular travel situation, most others would rightfully be. That reminds me - I need to request ORC through HKG as I couldn't go to HKG anymore after the MAJ stranding. Is that a request done via email/website or by phone?

On a related note, my wife and I are currently sitting on $500 in eCerts (she VDB'd IAD-TPA two weeks ago for $350), and between this and the miles I earn off of this trip and credit card spend this year, we won't be paying much for flights for the next year or so.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 4:43 pm
  #25  
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Great report. I'd love to fly this route myself one of these days. Agree that UA is out of their mind with such a shabby compensation offer ... my wife just got $200 for a 5-hr delay with an extra stop and invol reroute (caused by MX) ... sounds like the OP is due more like $500.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 4:48 pm
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Originally Posted by cfischer View Post
Great report. I'd love to fly this route myself one of these days. Agree that UA is out of their mind with such a shabby compensation offer ... my wife just got $200 for a 5-hr delay with an extra stop and invol reroute (caused by MX) ... sounds like the OP is due more like $500.
In 2012, I was offered $600 for the 12-hour delay of GUM-HNL nonstop and 24-hour delay of getting to my final destination...
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Old Feb 16, 15, 5:13 pm
  #27  
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Originally Posted by cloudybw View Post
In 2012, I was offered $600 for the 12-hour delay of GUM-HNL nonstop and 24-hour delay of getting to my final destination...
In 2014 I was offered $500 (ex-US) for MX TATL in C-class ... no longer ... UA's recent compensation offers are IMO 50% of what they used to be.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 6:08 pm
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Cool Story! Tell it again! =D

But seriously, that's an awesome adventure.

I will also be flying this UA154 all the way to HKG on April 3rd!
There's some great tips in your story. If there's anyone else doing the same. Please reach out!
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Old Feb 16, 15, 7:04 pm
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Thanks for a great adventure story, aoumd! Stories like this are why I read FT. Great additional color to the story from rmadisonwi as well!

It wasn't before, but the island hopper is on my bucket list now.

Originally Posted by aoumd View Post
(For those expecting a club, MAJ is not NRT. Many of the signs in the airport are hand painted and the only carpet in the airport is the Premier Access Line).
This really tickled my funny bone!

Hope everyone is home safely (and uneventfully... no more adventures)!
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Old Feb 16, 15, 7:16 pm
  #30  
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Originally Posted by lensman View Post
Thanks for a great adventure story, aoumd! Stories like this are why I read FT. Great additional color to the story from rmadisonwi as well!

It wasn't before, but the island hopper is on my bucket list now.


This really tickled my funny bone!

Hope everyone is home safely (and uneventfully... no more adventures)!
Thanks, yes I made it safely home today. UA804 was early into IAD and Mrs. Aoumd was able to pick me up and beat the snow home!

By the way, you should have seen the looks on people's faces on UA804's E+ cabin when the PA announcement with the usual weather report at the destination included the fact that we were lucky to be arriving early as there would be 8 inches of snow in DC tonight. Unlike Hoboken, the DC area cannot handle more than an inch or two (I used to live in JC Heights before moving here).

I'm getting some photos ready to post, I have one of that carpet.

OK, I'm home and have some photos, as several of you requested them.

First, taking off on the Island Hopper before things went downhill. The Island Hopper may be the last direct (but certainly not nonstop) United 738 (or any type) flight between two US airports (HNL and GUM) to still feature a full breakfast service free of charge in economy:


And some photos from my time at Majuro International. What photos do not capture is the hard work put in by all of the staff at this tiniest, most remote of airports served by United. They really bent over backwards putting in many extra hours for us to be as taken care of as possible. The manager here in particular was awesome.

Upon deplaning, you are welcomed to the world's largest shark sanctuary. Go right for customs, immigration and baggage claim or left into the Terminal for transiting and reboarding:


Majuro Terminal.


The only carpet at Majuro International Airport:


Open-air (no door/wall behind me) check-in/ticketing area at Majuro International (for all airlines, there's a window for one or two other smaller prop plane carriers between the Marshall Islands on the left).


Rules posted in the MAJ Terminal. Betel nuts are a big deal in this part of the world, the head FA/Int'l Service Manager had to announce no "betel nut chewing allowed" along with the no smoking announcement on each segment of the Island Hopper flight:


I'll post more tomorrow.

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Feb 16, 15 at 8:41 pm Reason: merge
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