Go Behind the Scenes on United’s Famous Island Hopper Flight

Jul 26, 2018

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For the past couple of years, United’s been running a video series called “Big Metal Bird,” offering a mix of aviation and promotional content. Some of the episodes are more interesting than others — I really liked the segments on turbulence and how to turn a plane, but the video focused on basic economy (ugh) got a big thumbs down from me (and many other YouTube viewers, it seems).

United’s now fully recovered from that video promoting its dumpster-fire-of-a-fare-product, though, thanks to this week’s segment focused on one of my absolute favorite aviation topics: the Island Hopper.

While I have yet to join the Island Hopper myself, several TPGers have had the privilege — most recently, Katie and JT Genter, who penned 12 Things to Know Before Flying the United Island Hopper.

The Island Hopper is operated by a small subfleet of five Boeing 737-800s, based in Guam (GUM). They’re also used for flights between Guam and some of United’s destinations in Asia, including Manila (MNL) and Tokyo (NRT). Inside, they’re almost identical to the 737s United flies within the US, with 16 seats in the first-class cabin, and new slimline seats in economy and Economy Plus. There’s no Wi-Fi, though hopefully it’ll be added to this fleet at some point.

Operating as United 154 on the westbound legs and United 155 on the return, the Guam-bound Island Hopper flies five hours from Honolulu (HNL) to Majuro (MAJ), then 90 minutes to the army airfield in Kwajalein (KWA), one hour on to Kosrae (TTK), another hour to Pohnpei (PNI), one more hour to Chuuk (TKK) and finally another two hours to Guam.

Generally, the Island Hopper is the only major link these islands have to the rest of the world. In addition to carrying passengers, who come and go at the various stops, these 737s also haul mail and packages, plus items passengers are bringing along to loved ones on other islands.

In the video above, a United pilot even details the concept of the “Micronesian Suitcase” — essentially a cooler that customers load up with fish in Chuuk, which they bring to family in Guam, then load it up with meat for the trip back.

So, as you can see, United 154 is far more than an item near the top of each Avgeek’s bucket list — it’s a lifeline for Micronesia.

For more on the Island Hopper, see:

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