Bucket List: Island Hopper Flight UA154/UA155

If not for encouragement from the Aviation Geek community my Motorsport marshaling hobby would be very limited. But thanks to a recent post by an Uber-AvGeek Seth from NYC I now have a bug in my mind to do something crazy: an Island Hopper tour of the Pacific on United Airlines flight #154 from Hawaii to Guam via the Marshall Islands and a few states in Micronesia (and flight #155 on the way back). Seth recently shared a few posts: click here and here; as well as a bunch of photos from his awesome Boeing 737 adventure from NYC area all the way to Guam:


And so with practically no consideration or rational reasoning behind whether this trip makes any sense whatsoever for me, I have my mind made up that I will do it! Soon…

I want to go marshal in Asia this year. I also want to go back to New Zealand. Perhaps this trip will work itself nicely into that planning. There will certainly be road blocks along the way. A major one among them is that I don’t have enough United Airlines Mileage Plus frequent flyer miles to secure this otherwise expensive flight. I’ve used up most of my UA miles in 2013 for my two round the world tickets on Singapore and Thai Air to go to the Singapore GP and the Korean GP. But miles can be earned and collected quickly.

I’m also not the biggest fan of United or the Boeing 737 aircraft. The quickest way to cross the Pacific is to fly direct, like the NYC to Hong Kong I flew on my way to Singapore, which takes about 16 hours (and goes via the North Pole instead of west via the Pacific Ocean). Seth’s experience lasted more than 47 hours factoring in the transit and layover time and the inevitable breakdown. According to Seth, a mechanic travels on the plane on this route, just in case things go wrong… but if parts are required they must be flown in with a relief crew. And when using miles I’d rather take the trip on Cathay Pacific like I did last time rather than flying United. But that’s the only option. Similarly, when it comes to single aisle aircraft I much rather prefer the Airbus A320 which feels far more comfortable to me in Economy class than a Boeing 737 does, but again that’s the only option on that route. Still I can overlook both of those personal preferences to experience something this unique that Seth says should be on the “bucket list” of any AvGeek. To me it’s more of a “fuck it, let’s do it!” list than anything else.

So what does the trip actually involve?

Let’s break it down:

island hopper ua154 hop 1

crossing the international date line, arrive a few hours later next day

island hopper ua154 hop 2

island hopper ua154 hop 3

island hopper ua154 hop 4

island hopper ua154 hop 5

island hopper ua154 hop 6

And visualize it:

island hopper ua154
map courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper gcmap.com

What does it cost?

A random date search in November yields $1400+

island hopper ua154 price

Or when booked as award flight using United Mileage Plus frequent flyer miles (randomly selected based on availability in January):

island hopper ua154 award miles

Not cheap either way, considering $1,400+ can easily get you NYC to just about anywhere in Asia, round trip! Similarly, 25,000 miles will get you a Domestic round trip flight from NYC to anywhere in the Continental US and some parts of Canada.

Seth also mentioned that it’s possible to book NYC to Guam award ticket forcing flight UA154 for about 35,000 miles with a stop in LA and Honolulu like he did on his trip, but availability on those flights is extremely rare. And so it’s a challenge… which seems quite exciting from any angle I look at it, and that makes me want to do it even more. A trip like this makes any other “Island Hopper” flight, like those in the Caribbean on little puddle jumper planes look exactly like that… little puddle jumping endeavor.

island hopper from nyc to la to guam
map courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper gcmap.com

So stay tuned…

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