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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 18, 15, 11:19 am
  #61  
 
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Right window is usually the best given the trade winds, as TKK, PNI and KSA's runways are on the north or northwest side of the islands. Unless you have a west or southwest monsoon wind burst, the planes will land/take off toward the east-northeast.

Check the 5-day forecast here for last-minute seat decisions:
http://www.prh.noaa.gov/data/GUM/CWFPQ1 (PNI, KSA, MAJ)
http://www.prh.noaa.gov/data/GUM/CWFPQ2 (ROR, YAP, TKK)
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Old Feb 18, 15, 12:50 pm
  #62  
 
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Where did the crew rest at TKK?
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Old Feb 18, 15, 2:23 pm
  #63  
 
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Originally Posted by DiverDave View Post
But I don't remember extra crew on the 737s either. I wonder if they did crew changeovers at one of the stops in the middle. I never flew past KWA.

David
I flew the HNL-MAJ-KWA route twice a year from 2005-2012. At that time they only had one extra pilot, always in 1A. The FAA changed the rules I believe in 2014 as I now do a MAC ATI flight Hickam to KWA. Those flights used to do a turn and burn Hickam-KWA-Hickam twice a week. They now have to remain overnight at KWA before returning to Hickam. I stopped using the UA flight after three consecutive failures to depart HNL on a Monday morning. I do miss the 5K RT miles, but need to get to KWA.

Originally Posted by aoumd View Post
13. AVOID TRAVEL AROUND MAJOR ASIAN HOLIDAYS (AMERICAN HOLIDAYS AREN'T AN ISSUE). GUM revolves around Asian tourism. Asian Holidays mean there is little to no hotel space in GUM if your flight arrives late and you need to stay somewhere until your flight the next day.
Also the HNL-MAJ-KWA flights tend to be full after Christmas/New Years holidays, around Spring Break and at the end of summer.

I did the KWA-GUM hopper leg once heading to OKA. I did enjoy the flight, but once was enough.
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Old Feb 18, 15, 4:56 pm
  #64  
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Originally Posted by spearsba View Post
I flew the HNL-MAJ-KWA route twice a year from 2005-2012. At that time they only had one extra pilot, always in 1A. The FAA changed the rules I believe in 2014 as I now do a MAC ATI flight Hickam to KWA. Those flights used to do a turn and burn Hickam-KWA-Hickam twice a week. They now have to remain overnight at KWA before returning to Hickam. I stopped using the UA flight after three consecutive failures to depart HNL on a Monday morning. I do miss the 5K RT miles, but need to get to KWA.



Also the HNL-MAJ-KWA flights tend to be full after Christmas/New Years holidays, around Spring Break and at the end of summer.

I did the KWA-GUM hopper leg once heading to OKA. I did enjoy the flight, but once was enough.
Thanks for mentioning the US Holidays' impact on the eastern end of the route! I clarified #13 to remove reference to ignoring US holidays.

And yes, I've noticed a lot of one-day delays in the past on the Island Hopper when researching this trip. This really is a big deal, as this flight is a lifeline to two nations. While my particular trip was for fun, many others on the flight are not there for fun purposes, and need to not miss their connections. I guess I didn't mention that well enough in my first post.

Originally Posted by TomMM View Post
Where did the crew rest at TKK?
Not sure. We never saw the crew after they left as we were reaccommed on UA189 which left before the crew came back for UA154-become-UA2102.

In an amazing twist of fate, the consolidated international cancellations thread tells me that UA180 HKG-EWR was canceled on Tuesday. This is the flight I was ticketed to go back across the Pacific on had the Island Hopper run on time. The Island Hopper running 36 hours late didn't make me late for coming back to work today, but the canceled UA180 would have.
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/24375301-post407.html

My miles posted and they're about 1,000 PQMs short of what ORC would have been. They also appear to have me flying both HNL-GUM in S and TKK-GUM in Y. Only TKK-GUM is in Y, the entire rest of the trip is in S.

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Feb 18, 15 at 9:10 pm Reason: 3x merge
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Old Feb 18, 15, 9:15 pm
  #65  
 
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Originally Posted by aoumd View Post
In an amazing twist of fate, the consolidated international cancellations thread tells me that UA180 HKG-EWR was canceled on Tuesday. This is the flight I was ticketed to go back across the Pacific on had the Island Hopper run on time. The Island Hopper running 36 hours late didn't make me late for coming back to work today, but the canceled UA180 would have.
Guess you lucked out on that one. But our friend, whom we met in MAJ, was still supposed to be on that flight. I haven't heard from him yet, but he is on FT (I forget his handle, and I don't think he's posted in this thread yet).
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Old Feb 18, 15, 11:02 pm
  #66  
 
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Took the Island Hopper westward in 1981 & 1982 (on the old 727's). We were living in OZ at the time, and my dad wanted to see some of the islands. Been back to a number of the islands to dive, including Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. Also been stuck at PNI because of a typhoon in Tokyo; Air Nauru used to fly a NRT-PNI-INU (Nauru) - had to wait 3 days for the plane to eventually show up, then spend 2 more days in Nauru to catch the flight to Auckland.
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Old Feb 20, 15, 5:30 pm
  #67  
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Originally Posted by DeveloperFish View Post
Took the Island Hopper westward in 1981 & 1982 (on the old 727's). We were living in OZ at the time, and my dad wanted to see some of the islands. Been back to a number of the islands to dive, including Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. Also been stuck at PNI because of a typhoon in Tokyo; Air Nauru used to fly a NRT-PNI-INU (Nauru) - had to wait 3 days for the plane to eventually show up, then spend 2 more days in Nauru to catch the flight to Auckland.
Wow, quite an experience! Do you remember if CS operated Nu Ju and Ju Ju, the 727 combos (passenger/cargo) back in 1981 or 1982? Or had they switched to all-passenger 727s by then?
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Old Feb 21, 15, 8:53 pm
  #68  
 
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I flew this route in 1969

I was in the Peace Corps in Yap by the time the 727 and Continental came and flew back to Yap in 1967 for the summer on the HNL-GUM with stops flight which I think did not stop at Kosrae or Ponape which did not have airports that could accommodate the aircraft. We were allowed off the plane and put into bunkers with gas masks hanging from the walls at Johnston Island. I thought I flew the 727 out of Yap but according to this video that service started later. It was a dolled up DC-6 painted in Continental Air Micronesia livery. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxLx...k#action=share

Last edited by iquitos; Feb 21, 15 at 9:51 pm Reason: add video
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Old Feb 22, 15, 2:08 pm
  #69  
 
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"A gentleman's" report

Don't think I've ever been referred to as a gentleman before. Apologies for the delay posting my notes, I just returned from a v. cold Washington DC.

Iquitos, thank you for the wonderful video link, great viewing indeed! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxLx...k#action=share

Aoumd & Rmadisonwi have accurately and thoroughly covered the exciting events of last weekend, I was grateful to have bumped into them in Majuro, certainly sharing the adventure was a lot of fun.

We all found the legendary Air Mike / Continental spirit very much alive and well. I thought it was notable that our flight crews were Guam (ex Continental) and Honolulu (United) based.

All the pilots had purposefully chosen Guam for their love of ‘real flying’, one of the captains had left mainline 767 flying to do the Island hopper route, which they typically fly 2 x a month.

The pilots also commented that 737 breakdowns were very rare and also that it was good our engineer correctly identified the problem, that doesn’t always happen and they fly the wrong part in.

They knew we were enjoying our extended Pacific Island experiences, it really made for a perfect trip.

At every step of our adventure, we were blown away by how fantastic the flight crew, cabin crew, engineer and all ground staff and Islanders were. It made the world of difference in how passengers handled the extraordinary delays and United should be extremely proud of their Island Hopper teams.

My goal was to cross the pacific ocean LAX – HNL – GUM - HKG via the Pacific Island Hopper. Just over 8400 miles on ETOPS 737s’ in 38 hours. In the end, the trip took 86 hours, the 48 hour delay meant I unfortunately missed a couple of meetings in Hong Kong.

I purchased a one way first class LAX – HNL for $700 and a separate ticket HNL – HKG via Gum, HKG – EWR and IAD – LAX for $1,200. I thought was a good deal and used a miles to upgrade GUM – HKG and a SWU to upgrade HKG – EWR. Returning from IAD to LAX, I checked in 24 hours before and I was offered $119 for a buy up of the last first class seat which I accepted. So for 2k total, I experienced a trip of a lifetime, gained 22k PQM status miles and had an exceptionally good time.

I asked about Island Hopper upgrades. Segments are not possible, has to be HNL-GUM. I was offered an upgrade to seat 1E for miles. I declined as I was more than happy with seat 7F.

I’ll post some flyer tips separately.

As previously noted, we had the swiss cheese of IRROPS that meant I arrived in Hong Kong 2 days late, so I simply stayed at the airport hotel, returning the following morning Feb 17 to EWR on flight 180. I slept 12.5 hours straight on that flight!

The summary of our troubles:

HNL – MAJ – Uneventful, a beautifully clear Pacific crossing.
The arrival at Majuro is incredibly exciting as you see 2 Atoll's prior to Majuro, so this is the one segment where you really want to be on the left side of the plane. I moved to 30A, thanks to a helpful local businessman - who also helped me get my Majuro passport stamp as he was friends with the Director of Immigration.

MAJURO
22 hour delay: deplane and overnight due to APU bleed air valve failure. Aoumd posted a good picture of our unexpected Valentine's Day dinner in the poshest restaurant in Majuro.

On reboarding, the captain explained that the replacement part had been flown in from Guam and installed overnight by another engineer, he also commented how nice it had been for the crew to get to know some of the passengers during our unexpected day on the Marshall Islands.

Then a series of small events happened delayed our Majuro departure by 2 hours:

- late opening of customs line

- Hotel forgot to include utensils for our amazing breakfast necessitating a trip back to the hotel for forks.

- delay getting weight & balance information from Guam, the captain sounded frustrated as he wanted to calculate himself.

We had little knowledge that these delays would be our downfall later on in the day.

The rest of the Island hops were stunning, and exciting landings with the short runways, beautiful views and always a sense of occasion at each island.

As I was in row 7, I did deplane briefly in Kosrae, the International Service Manager was fine about it.

At Pohnpei, we had what was to be a critical extra 8 minute delay waiting Oakland ATC to provide take off clearance.

Chuuk was our last Island before Guam. Everything seemed to go just fine, re-boarding 23 hours late with baggage & fish coolers loaded, and then our Captain (from the original HNL – MAJ segment) tells us that the whole flight crew are now out of hours and that our plane cannot leave.

The Captain provided more detailed information about the FAA waiver limits and reasons for the shutdown of flight 154:

“We exited that waiver limit and are now on regular FAA duty limits, unfortunately we’ve got, with customs not showing up this morning at Majuro, and we showed up for work, and at the time we reported our duty day (4.30am), today is really short. We’ve tried really hard to keep this thing moving, but unfortunately with that 2 hour delay a(in Majuro) nd that little hiccup in Pohnpei when Oakland center wouldn’t answer the radio to give us the clearance, we have now reached the point where we cannot legally go. We’re allowed to extend 2 hours and we’re past the extension point. So we are hard done, the entire crew per FAA rules & regulations. So unfortunately at this point the trip to Guam is shut down, we’ll let CSR explain further how they’re going to handle this. We really do apologize for this, this is one of things we just can’t control, thank you for your patience.”

So this gave us 13 hours to explore Chuuk (Truk), and we had a blast – walking a few miles, eating incredibly well and generally chit chatting with locals and fellow passengers.

We snagged the last couple of rooms in Guam, thanks to Travelocity and so as recommended in Hemisphere's Magazine, I did get to swim in the beautiful warm Pacific Ocean at Tumon Bay.

In summary, this really was the perfect Island Hopper flight if you didn’t have to be somewhere else. We had plenty of time to get a flavor for Majuro and Chuuk and loved the experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

My thanks to Aoumd & Rmadisonwi for being great company!

A few pictures will follow.

Last edited by westerndh; Feb 22, 15 at 2:20 pm Reason: Incomplete
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Old Feb 22, 15, 2:45 pm
  #70  
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Great meeting you on the Island Hopper! It was definitely quite the trip! Didn't realize you had so many upgrade opportunities but I guess that's the world of 1K.

Sounds like you made UA180 back to EWR? I thought I read it was canceled:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/24375301-post407.html Although maybe I'm a day off with the time change. Hope so and you didn't have any other issues.

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Feb 22, 15 at 3:38 pm Reason: quote not needed
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Old Feb 22, 15, 2:50 pm
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Great story. I had been looking for an excuse to take the Island Hopper, and the opportunity arose when I needed to travel to Australia several years ago. I took the Island Hopper and connected in GUM to a CO (now UA) flight to Cairns. It was a great experience and I got a boat load of OnePass miles. This was before the merger, so the only other way to accumulate miles was on a Qantas partner flight where I would have received only 50% of the miles. If I ever get the chance to do this again, I might hop all the way to Manilla.
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Old Feb 22, 15, 3:25 pm
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Originally Posted by aoumd View Post
Sounds like you made UA180 back to EWR? I thought I read it was canceled:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/24375301-post407.html Although maybe I'm a day off with the time change. Hope so and you didn't have any other issues.
No, I was fine. In fact had a perfect flight out of HK on the 17th and arrived to a snowy EWR same day. Amtrak the following day to Washington, not so great. Delay email alert of 20 minutes ended up stretching to a 2 hour delay, crazy weather!

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Feb 22, 15 at 3:39 pm Reason: repair broken qoute
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Old Feb 22, 15, 3:37 pm
  #73  
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Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
Yep, 1A, 1B, and 7C are blocked. On our flight they had taken the white headrest cover thingy on 7C and wrote "CREW" with a black Sharpie.
It is 2A/B for the pilots (there is no 1A/B). And 3A/B are also blocked because the seats have to be able to recline much more like a business class seat than a traditional 737 F seat.
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Old Feb 22, 15, 3:51 pm
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Originally Posted by sbm12 View Post
It is 2A/B for the pilots (there is no 1A/B). And 3A/B are also blocked because the seats have to be able to recline much more like a business class seat than a traditional 737 F seat.
Noticed the much bigger recline. Also the relief crew had their bags strapped into seats 3 A/B.

Following link has a few pics of the flights, people and places we spent.

https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/1...CKGwyceHtsaKRw

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Feb 22, 15 at 4:06 pm Reason: merge consecutive posts
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Old Feb 22, 15, 4:30 pm
  #75  
 
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Island Hopper tips

What to bring:

Shorts & T shirt / Hawaiian shirt

Large water bottle, you need to stay hydrated. Flight attendants come by every 30 minutes to top up

Extra food – Initial breakfast from Honolulu is great, after that it’s very basic rolls. Plan on a couple of extra meals. Jerky was a life saver for me.

Sun tan cream, it’s really hot! We did not notice any bugs on the islands.

Blankets provided, note the back of the plane is warmer than front.


Where to sit:


Assuming normal wind direction, left side usually provides a nice Island overview from a distance but from about 5,000 feet, the views are generally much better on the right side. The flight does a left turn or 180 turn at most stations.

Use Mobile App to access row 7, fantastic E+ seating. I selected 7F.

Rows 8-10 would be ok as well, otherwise get behind row 27 to avoid wings and still have ok view.

The exception is Majuro, where I suggest you scope out a temporary left side window seat about an hour before landing. I moved to 30A just for the landing and “wow”, that was a good place to be. The view of the runway, taking the whole width of the Atoll was amazing.

Right side also allows observation of the cargo loading - the freight, mail and suitcases along with the station trucks are as fascinating to watch as the constant influx of new passengers. At anytime, on all segments, I'd say there was only 20-30 open seats.

Majuro
Approach – this is a long 60 mile approach, you want to be on the left side for this, it’s spectacular, particularly after 4 hours of ocean.
Depart – Right side, flight makes a super 180 left turn over the Atoll, lots to see. Left side would also be good.

Kwajalein
Approach – Left or Right Side. Right side has golf course.
Take off – Left or Right Side
Right side on take off gives a magnificent perspective / view of horse shoe

Kosrae
This is the shortest runway at 5,700 feet. Expect a rather quick stop!
Approach – Right side for close up views
Take off – Right side for close up views

Pohnpei
Approach – Right side for close up views
Take off – Right side for close up views and view of shipwreck on reef

Chuuk
Approach – Right side
Take off – Right side

Guam
5am in the morning, we landed at 4.30am so couldn't see a thing!

Communication
Following was based on my AT&T phone:
Majuro - can activate via Paypal or visa. $5 per 50mb. Phone will show full signal, but needs to be activated with RMI. On Island, everyone buys time cards $5 for 50 minutes.

Kwajalein - free wifi signal for everyone on the plane

Kosrae / Pohnpei / Chuuk - AT&T phone worked sometimes, texts were fine. Otherwise have to purchase prepaid FSM Telecom cards.

Guam - normal operation


Other tips
When you deplane, there's a cart close to the air stairs where you can leave your carry on bag, leaving you hands free to explore the terminal.

Sitting in row 7 definitely allows you to talk to the Mechanic who was very friendly. There's so much legroom that even a middle seat in row 7 would allow decent views if traveling with a friend.

Shut your windows when deplaning, you never know when the air conditioning's going to fail!

Buy local crafts and also the local newspaper where possible (definitely at Chuuk and Pohnpei).

To the crew of UA154, we miss you like crazy!

Last edited by westerndh; Feb 22, 15 at 4:54 pm Reason: update
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