Redwood839
Topic Author
Posts: 177
Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:26 am

Island Hopping the Pacific + Asia - CM/NH/UA Island Hopper UA155.

Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:08 pm

Hi All,

Foreword:

This is my actual first trip report. While I travel a lot for business and pleasure, I always forget to take pictures at the airport or in flight. Not because I sleep on the flights but I just simply forget to write things in detail. And while I could always do a summary report with no pictures or a few, I just get lazy about it and don't feel like boring others. In this case, I did take some pictures but not as much as I've would've liked to. My wife was in charge of reminding me, but she failed at it by not reminding me once. NOTE: Most of the pictures were taken with my work provided iPhone 8, I'm too lazy to carry bigger cameras.


Background:


I was born in Costa Rica but grew up and did all my education in the US. After graduating from college I moved back to Costa Rica mainly because of how hard the recession hit our family business and to be closer to family. In 2015 I had the opportunity to move to the UK for work before returning back home in January '18 due to the arrival of our first baby, born in June of this year. Working 14 hour days 5 days a week and a position which I looked after over 600 employees and with no family in the UK to help, it would've been impossible to help out my wife as much as she deserved to and rightfully so.

Before moving back here we always talked about going to Asia, and we even booked a trip to Tokyo for 2 weeks from MAN on Finnair aboard their new A350 at the time, but we cancelled when we had to fly back home in January for an emergency.

I had obtained MileagePlus Gold through flying with work consistently between MAN-EWR and more than often bi weekly work trips to Europe most of the time with Brussels Airlines on full paying fares, so I used the opportunity to look for a mileage run/birthday vacation to my wife to achieve gold for another year.

Scrolling through another forum I found an open jaw multi stop fare for $390 with the following routing:

LAX-NRT on UA
NRT-HKG on ANA
PEK-NRT on ANA
NRT-GUM on UA
GUM-HNL on UA
HNL-LAX on UA
LAX-YYZ on AC.

In the end our entire flights looked like this across 15 segments and 24,321 PQM miles which pushed me to gold for another year and my wife into silver.

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Copyright © 1996-2018 Karl L. Swartz. All rights reserved.

There were two problems with the above fare. The first one was that I had to get from HKG to PEK by my own means, as it was not part of the fare and the second was that for me to get that price I had to end in YYZ. The idea was that I would drop at LAX and just cancel the last leg which in theory is fine, but my passport requieres a visa to enter Canada, which wasn't free. I also requiered a Chinese visa.

Getting my chinese visa was easy, except I had to ask for it twice since they put the wrong expiration date on it, which was a day before I was meant to get there. Although it was their error, they made me pay for it. All in took about two weeks.

For the canadian visa, I did it all online. I thought about buying a full fare refundable ticket from YYZ-EWR or something to show as proof of travel for my transit visa, but because of the way banks work here, I would've had to wait for a refund for 45 days. Instead, I opted for being honest and included a letter explaining my request for a transit visa, but was clear I wouldn't actually fly to Canada. After all I was paying for it anyway so it wouldn't be a loss of money for them. This request was granted without issues.

To get to LAX I booked on Copa from SJO-PTY-LAX . I had a couple of options to get to LAX such as a non stop with DL,AS, AV, Volaris and Copa. In the end I chose Copa because they're *A (So is AV) and their flight arrived first without a long layover anywhere. To get back from LAX I booked on AV with their LAX-GUA-SJO flight, with the GUA stop a 45 min technical stop for fuel. Operated by LACSA.

San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City, Panama
Aircraft: B39M (Boeing 737 MAX 9)
Reg: HP-9901CMP (Copa's 1st MAX 9, First in Central/South America).
MROC-MPTO
Flight - 1 hour

I had been upgraded to business the day before using their upgrade bid thing for $40 per passenger. I didn't think it would go through but it did. I didn't take any pictures at the airport, as it was a tiring 3AM and just wanted to get on the plane. I ran into the captain at security and he was glowing in MAX swag. Pen, Lanyard and labels.

Service on this flight consisted of breakfast which was fruit, a croissant with cheese and ham, yogurt, a fruit bar and a juice. Drinks were only given out once. I asked before take off if I could visit the cockpit on landing (you know MAX and all) and the guy seemed shy and said he didn't want to ask, but said I should go into the cockpit and ask myself? Thanks pal.


* My seat 1A

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* Safety Card - Copa doesn't use the term MAX on their system, it lists it as a B739.

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* Room in the seat up position

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* Our screens

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* Seat Controls

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* Breakfast

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* Panama Canal and Skyline

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* Our plane while taxing on another plane

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Overall the flight was fine. The pursers were absent for most of the flight and hung out in the galley and no drinks were refilled. The captain made announcements in perfect English/Spanish/Portuguese and French on this flight which was pretty cool.

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I didn't take any pictures on the PTY-LAX flight as I slept almost the entire way. But here's two from our approach.

* New LA Stadium (Raiders I think)

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I also didn't document our LAX-HKG-PEK flights, these routes have been documented before and while I have some pictures, I was battling a cold en route so was on night quill most of the time dozing off.

We spent a couple of good days in Hong Kong and Beijing. We visited most of the touristy things like the wall, temples, Tianmen Square, Forbidden City. We used the metro in Beijing which was pretty great and easy to use. Expected it to be more difficult but had no issues.

ANA - All Nippon Airways
Beijing, China to Narita, Japan
Aircraft: A320N (NEO)
Reg: JA216A
ZBAA-NRTA
Flight Time - 3 Hours

I didn't take any pictures at the airport, mainly in fear of getting yelled at by the military in Chinese. We had some issues checking in. Because our full itinerary was a back to back PEK-NRT-GUM-HNL-LAX-YYZ the system kept crashing and the Air China agents looking after the ANA flight were freaking out. Eventually a person in ANA uniform came and took over, she told me the system was crashing because it was trying to print 18 boarding passes and they didn't know what to do. I told her to check me to NRT since I would exit the airport for a good 6 hours and I would check in with United there. She was thankful for the help. At the gate an ANA agent approached and apologized and bowed for the issue and asked to board with business for the issues.

I fell in love with ANA, they're flight attendants were so sweet and genuine on both of our flights that I wish I would've done LAX-NRT with them in the first place. There was a full meal of which I ate half of and we departed bang on time and arrived 20 minutes ahead.

Flying on this A320 NEO meant that I had also now been aboard every new type of medium-large aircraft out there except for the B748. As I had flown on the B789,B788,MAX9,NEO,78X,A380 and A350 by now.

* Our seat back

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* Using the forward camera with our tug waiting

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* In the haze out of PEK

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* Meal

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* Forward camera while on approach

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About 20 minutes before landing while doing the landing safety check, the lead purser came to our seats and sat down at the empty seat next to ours. She wanted to apologize for the issue at PEK. She told us she also knew we were travelling around the world and were doing many flights with many airlines (wut) and wanted to give us a gift. She gave me the card below which was very neat and a bag full of eye masks, lotion, chap-sticks, brushes, tooth paste and all sorts of goodies. Then 3 flight attendants lined up in the aisle in front of us and bowed. I couldn't believe it and didn't even know what to say, it was such a nice gesture. The couple in front of us started clapping as with others around, maybe they thought we had just gotten married?

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Customs at Narita were super easy and everyone was very nice. We took the train to Narita-san and walked around for a bit. Unfortunately it was getting dark so some crappy pictures turned out

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Next part and the Island hopper is next!
Last edited by Redwood839 on Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
Redwood839
Topic Author
Posts: 177
Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:26 am

Re: Island Hopping the Pacific + Asia - CM/NH/UA Island Hopper UA155.

Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:08 pm

Guam to Honolulu via Trukk, Ponhpei, Kwajalein, Majuro.
GUM - TKK - PNI - KWA - MAJ - HNL
Aircraft: B738
Reg: N73299
Flight Time - 14 hours 32 minutes
Seat 8F

A.B Won Pat Guam International Airport

We arrived from NRT at 150AM and I expected Customs in GUM to be completely dead, which was not the case with multiple flights arriving from Korea at the same time with many confused travellers. We ended up cutting through the line as a lot of them did not have the proper landing cards filled out (special to GUM) so it took about 20 minutes with a very relaxed agent.

I had a reservation at Hertz as we would be heading for a place called Siesta, which is like 5 mins from the airport and has a sleeping area and a cereal bar which was fantastic for 4-5 hours sleep. We got up early (about 2 hours before our flight) and drove around town for a bit and saw a couple of beaches. Unfortunately there was no one at the return facility for the car and I didn't want to risk just leaving it there, so it took about 45 minutes which meant we now had to run for our flight which was boarding group 6 by the time we got there.

* Views of GUM

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On board today we had a local crew who knew a lot of the locals sitting around me. In front of us in 7C was our mechanic that would be going down all the way to Majuro with us. Business only had 2 couples sitting, plus 2 reserve pilots and 2 seats with a mess of blankets and pillows. There was also a frenzy of Antonov planes around us. I counted 4 total.

The first leg of the journey was quite smooth the entire way, we got a small sandwich which looked like it had been reheated twenty times. We had a fellow that had a diving business in Chuuk who had just come in from visiting family in Seattle. He decided to fly to GUM and then take the one leg to TKK rather than flying the westbound island hopper with 4 stops.

* Our Volga Dnepr AN124 neighbour at GUM

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* Asia Pacific 757F N888LT. Seems to fly a lot between GUM and HNL.

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* Passing some amazing corals and water on final approach

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Our landing was what you would expect for the runway. We bounced once and when we came down, we came down hard. Full reverse and brakes all thew way to the end. I kept seeing the 30,20,10 signs on the side of the runway go by very quickly (marking 2000 ft remaining, 1000ft etc)

* Welcome to Chuuk!

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* Cool thing about these stops is being able to get off via stairs and be next to the aircraft

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* A very sun faded Chuuk International Airport now famous sign.

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I flagged down a United agent and asked if she could point me to where I could a stamp. She said she gladly get it for me and took my passport to return 5 minutes later. The terminal at Chuuk was basic with a small shop with some crafts and drinks and food if I remember, toilets and air conditioning. Boarding was called about 35 minutes later and we made our way back to the plane.

Also almost 80% of the plane got off here. Everyone pretty much had a row to themselves. Business had 2 passengers which were there for the entire way.

*A Hercules lands right as we're boarding

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Take off again was what you would expect. Hold the brakes and hit what I would assume TO/GA because we got off the ground well before the end of the runway. There was a storm approaching and you could see heavy rain coming in across the airport in the ocean. I kept an eye out for the Niugini 738 which landed short here both on approach and landing but never saw it. Not sure if they recovered it or it's still sitting in the lagoon.

* View of the runway and airport as we bank right towards PNI.

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* No service on this flight, soon we were descending to our second stop, Pohnpei.

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* Beautiful waters off Pohnpei

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* Looking down RWY 09.

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* Welcome to Pohnpei!

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* Our trusty steed across the Pacific

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Once again the facilities here were remote. I tried asking for a stamp but the place was full. By time I finally got to someone she said she would've gladly taken me, but I had to enter FSM oficially and then exit immediately and while the United agent was more than glad to walk with me and make sure the plane would not leave, we no longer had the time. We refilled on snacks here in the small shop.

We took off the opposite we landed, out of RWY 09 east bound.

* Bye Pohnpei!

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The next flight would be to KWA which is Bucholz Army Airfield. We were reminded that only those with special permission could leave the aircraft and to not take pictures on the ground. Nothing about closing the shades.

While at KWA we lost 5 contractors who had been since GUM and a security team came in to sweep the aircraft. They were nice enough.

With a probably 20% full plane at this point, we boarded every single soul that could fit into the plane at this point, even in Business. I could not count any empty seat by walking towards the end of the plane. No pictures due to the forementioned reasons.

Our flight to Majuro was fine. There had been the sorry promise of dinner served on this leg, which turned out to be a ham and cheese sandwich for our sorry souls that had been on this flight for 7 hours now. It was dark by the time we got to Majuro so no approach sights.

* Welcome to Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands.

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+

Majuro had a slightly more complete terminal. There was WiFi which had a cost of $5 (like everything else in the shop), a bar and food including Spam and Rice, some dried up fish in a bag lol and Pringles with the logo for some event in 2017! (Not expired though).

It was a bit of a hassle to get a stamp here, I had to go to customs which was a door in the terminal and wait for all passengers to get stamped. There was a really relaxed island guy in departures and he told me he had to ask his boss, which was fighting very angrily with the UA crew who until now had been on my flight. Apparently something about some forms being wrong and the crew saying it didn't matter. It did to him.

He was amused by my Costa Rican passport and asked about multiple stamps in it (Jordan,Irak,UAE,Turkey and Peru) it felt like an interrogation but he was just interest. Manager finished and said it would be $5 for the stamp, confused I whipped $5 out which he laughed at and just stamped it and said it was a joke. Real funny fonzy.

This is unfortunately where it went south. In 8D (the seat in the aisle at bulkhead) sat down a flight attendant in uniform. I guess she wasn't expecting a local woman with a baby that looked about 5 months to sit next to her because she was NOT happy. She made this very visibile and asked the purser if there was another seat audibly enough. The purser later came back and said "Sorry you have to seat there" with the woman with the child obviously upset. I felt like saying something, but getting stuck in the middle of the pacific ocean with 3 flights a week was not an option. At this point I was really tired and slept for most of the way to HNL, only woken up by landing in HNL.

Overall:

When I initially booked this and convinced my wife into it I thought she would complaint about it and would be moody. She was actually fine throughout the entire thing and didn't complaint except for the food. Personally, since I've always wanted to do this I enjoyed it, but would not do it again. It's a tiring flight and even stepping off it's still a far cry from being comfortable, even if in Economy Plus. The crew was rather dull and not really present, no food either even on long sectors makes for it worse. You kinda have to buy everything at GUM and the options aren't great. I enjoyed the first 2 legs but by the time I got to KWA I was ready to get it done with. The planes also have looping movies, so bring your own device. Crew was really aged and lacked in comparison to the wonderful crew we got on HNL-LAX.

Hope you enjoyed!

Bonus - Oahu Pics:

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lychemsa
Posts: 1838
Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:39 pm

Re: Island Hopping the Pacific + Asia - CM/NH/UA Island Hopper UA155.

Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:16 pm

How was Guam? Apparently Palau / Koror is the nicest island. United flys there from Guam, Japan and Manila. Why would the Copa pilot make the announcement in French. It reminds me of an Air Canada flight to Frankfurt where they also made the announcements in Italian. I find it annoying when the announcements go on and on and on. Thanks for the interesting pictures.
 
Redwood839
Topic Author
Posts: 177
Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:26 am

Re: Island Hopping the Pacific + Asia - CM/NH/UA Island Hopper UA155.

Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:26 pm

lychemsa wrote:
How was Guam? Apparently Palau / Koror is the nicest island. United flys there from Guam, Japan and Manila. Why would the Copa pilot make the announcement in French. It reminds me of an Air Canada flight to Frankfurt where they also made the announcements in Italian. I find it annoying when the announcements go on and on and on. Thanks for the interesting pictures.


We were only there for about 6 hours but it was a relatively relaxed island feel to it. Everyone was really nice but it obviously doesn't come close to mainland in infrastructure or overall appearance. Kinda reminded me of Costa Rica itself in the Caribbean parts. Perhaps near the airbase it gets a little better? I kept getting sent to the Kmart for everything so that's like the most memorable thing.

I don't know why he made announcements in French. I know they serve Toronto and Montreal which are French speaking along with Guyana. On a departing flight from SJO, it might have been because of the connection onward out of PTY?
 
RJNUT
Posts: 1644
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 1999 1:58 am

Re: Island Hopping the Pacific + Asia - CM/NH/UA Island Hopper UA155.

Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:05 pm

Many an aviation enthusiast has fantasized about the Pacific island hopper. I had wanted to back in the "Air Mike" days in the 70's ,still with coral runways in many locations. Thanks for posting and the honesty about it becoming tiresome about halfway through!
 
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LTU932
Posts: 13551
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:34 am

Re: Island Hopping the Pacific + Asia - CM/NH/UA Island Hopper UA155.

Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:17 pm

The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas. So that stadium you saw was likely the new stadium for both the LA Rams and LA Chargers.
Sometimes the only thing more dangerous than a question is an answer. - Ferengi Rule of Acquisition 208

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