One of the most unique flights that you could ever take is called the United Airlines Island Hopper, a route run by United Airlines to service a string of Pacific islands from Hawaii to the Philippines. This service is the lifeblood of these islands, with this being some of the only commercial jetliners to visit them.
This route is operated by a small fleet of five Boeing 737-800’s, with 160 seats on board and a range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,000km).
The service is run from (in order, stopping at each):
- Honolulu (HNL)
- Majuro (MAJ)
- Kwajalein (KWA) – Military
- Kosrae (KSA)
- Pohnpei (PNI)
- Chuuk (TKK)
- Guam (GUM)
Once you reach Guam you can fly onto Manila (MNL) and Tokyo (NRT) on the same UA Island Hopper service.
A great feature of the journey is that you can get off at each island, have a explore of the terminal, restock your food and get a passport stamp
This takes roughly 17 hours, and upon reaching the final destination, the plane is re-crewed, refuelled and completes the same route in reverse. Is the United Airlines Island Hopper worth it? Read on to find out!
Tips for travelling on the UA Island Hopper
You can get out at each island (ish). A great feature of the journey is that you can get off at each island, have a explore of the terminal, restock your food and get a passport stamp. The exception is Kwajalein which is an active military base and you must stay on the plane (unless of course, you have orders that give you access).
They will search the plane for bags that have no owners and if you don’t take your personal belongings, you might have them left behind by the crew at one of the islands
Also on that note, you can’t get out or take photos at Kwajalein. As mentioned before, it’s an active military base, so no photos or deplaning. The staff will be watching you like a hawk.
At every other destination, you must take your luggage. They will search the plane for bags that have no owners and if you don’t take your personal belongings, you might have them left behind by the crew at one of the islands.
Choose the right route. Not all island hoppers are equal, once a week the flight skips the island of Kosrae, so make sure you pick the right route.
No WIFI or entertainment. There is no internet this far out to sea, and because the island hops are so short, the seat back entertainment system resets on each landing. To make matters worse there is no power in the economy section. However, we can hope soon that they will upgrade their system to the streaming WIFI model they use in North America.
Bring some food (and drinks). As the journey is 17 hours, there are very limited options on board. The food given to all passengers is reported to be a simple light breakfast, and later, a pack of nuts. They don’t even bring extra food that passengers can pay for, as their fuel/weight restrictions are so tight. You can buy food at each island, however, but it’s no means a food court.
One of the best parts about the island hopper is that it lands at a variety of islands and flies over miles and miles of tropical landscapes, so be sure to get the best seat on board
Choose the best seats. One of the best parts about the island hopper is that it lands at a variety of islands and flies over miles and miles of tropical landscapes, so be sure to get the best seat on board. It is easier to say which seats to not choose rather which to, as only a few are quite bad. They are rows 20-23 that are over the wing (for once its best to sit at the rear of the plane) and rows 11 and 12 that both lack a window.
An extra bit of trivia, there is always a United Airways official mechanic on every single one of these flights (almost unheard of on the mainland USA) just in case of the plane breaks down on one of the islands and needs to be repaired. They always sitting premium economy in one of the aisle seats.
What is the best way to use this ticket?
United Airlines offers an open claw ticket option, which is defined as a flight from US & Canada, one or two destinations, before a return flight to North America. However as the island hopper visits these islands you can actually use the islands as a destination and take multiple Island Hopper flights, staying a few nights at each destination.
Enjoy Island hopping!