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ManchesterMAN
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CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Fri Nov 20, 2009 11:23 pm

CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper Report HNL-GUM




Background

I first heard of the Air Mike Island hopper from an article in Airways magazine when I was maybe 15 or 16 years old and was completely amazed and mesmerised by the remoteness of some of the locations it serves. I vowed that one day I will take this fight and it has remained on my list of things to do before I die for the past 15 years, parked in the back of my mind as something I need to try to arrange one day.

However living in the UK and with the flight travelling between HNL and GUM it seemed it would be quite a mission (and an expensive one at that) to even get myself to the departure airport. Then in 2004 I discovered the wonderful world of the frequent flyer programme and suddenly found myself flying vast distances, sometimes just for the sake of earning miles. Suddenly the expense of taking the Island hoper fight was measured in miles and not in £.

CO onepass was the first FF programme I joined back in 2004 and have steadily developed a healthy balance of miles as I used to park all my Skyteam flights there. As a result paying for the expensive island hoper was no longer a problem. The problem has always been finding availability at the right time and finding the time to take the trip. After many failed attempts to piece a trip together I vowed that 2009 would be the year and around Christmas time 2008 I started planning a trip for the following Autumn.

The dates would be dictated by when a seat was available for a saver redemption. I decided that I would start in HNL and I wanted to continue on CO from GUM-CNS so I needed dates where there was availability on both sectors as well as having availability to get me back somehow. I eventually found availability on November 6th from HNL which gave me 26 hours in GUM before continuing to CNS. I would then have 4 full days in Australia before returning to GUM and then to NRT and finally HNL on NW. Total trip cost was 40,000 miles plus $94 in tax which I was pretty happy with.

Soon after I turned my attention to joining the dots and getting myself to HNL and back from London. I eventually decided to drop the last leg on NW from NRT-HNL and return to the UK from NRT. So I used my bmi miles to get me to HNL flying NH business class LHR-NRT and UA First class NRT-HNL. Coming back I again used my bmi miles from NRT-SIN in NH business class and then SIN-LHR in SQ F Class (which I managed to book before they changed to a77W). So, with some domestic Australian flights as well my whole itinerary looked something like this:

LHR-NRT-HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM-CNS-BNE-SYD-CNS-GUM-NRT-SIN-LHR flying NH, UA, CO, DJ, QF, SQ and completed in 10 days.



So on to the show and the one I have been waiting for, the Continental Micronesia island hopper …

HNL-GUM
CO957
Boeing 737-824 (N14249)
Seat 24F


After arriving on Oahu the day before and spending the day visiting Pearl Harbour, downtown Honolulu and Waikiki beach, I woke up at 04:30 on the day at the flight to take the 05:00 shuttle from the Ohana Airport hotel the short distance to the airport.

Check in was a little frustrating as the agent tried to tell me that as a UK citizen I needed a visa for Guam. I insisted that entry requirements were the same as those of the USA and I could use the visa waiver program with my ESTA. He then showed me the visa information he had on screen saying that UK citizens need a visa for Guam. I then suggested he scrolled down the page where it revealed that this was the case “unless passenger is visiting for tourist purposes”. The agent never apologised for his error as he continued to check me in.

CO had joined Star Alliance less than 2 weeks prior to my trip so as an added bonus I got to use the Presidents Club as a Star Alliance Gold member with BD. The lady on reception seemed a little bothered by having to look up yet another strange card she hadn’t seen before in her new Star Alliance book. She even went as far as asking for some photo ID to check that I was the person named on the card as my reservation had my middle name in it and my *G card doesn’t. However I can’t see what purpose this served. After all my boarding pass had BD*G on it and said elite access so that proves that the system recognised my card. Anyway it didn’t take too long and I was soon in to grab a few mini muffins and some OJ (I had heard that CO lounges were better than UA ones in general but the HNL club certainly failed to convince me that CO were any different).

So not the best start but I was hopeful the flight would be better as I had heard many good things about the Air Mike crews.


N14249 awaiting its Micronesian odyssey at HNL gate 13


HNL-MAJ

Departure was scheduled for 06:55 but boarding of our B737-800 puddle jumper started at 06:15 and by 06:40 everyone was on and we pushed back around 10 minutes early. I took my seat in 24F, which is the seat I always take on CO 737-800s as the window is aligned perfectly for photography and has a great view of the wing without obscuring the view of the ground below.

The load in economy was around 70% for the first and longest sector to Majuro which was just under 5 hours. There were many middle seats free but unfortunately mine was not. I was just hoping that my neighbours would be getting off at the first stop!

We took off from the runway that runs parallel with the reef runway taking off towards Diamond Head (sorry can’t recall the number of the runway). I thought the take off roll would be quite leisurely as we would have a lot of fuel onboard but we actually took off like a rocket (maybe the pilots were practicing for later in the trip!) Immediately after rotation we made a sharp right turn which gave me a great view of the reef runway and the whole HNL airport. 3 minutes later we were out over the pacific.


Immediate right turn after rotation


Banking past the reef runway


Leaving the Oahu coast for our Pacific crossing


On this first sector “breakfast” was served. As a vegetarian I couldn’t remember if I had ordered a special meal or not when I booked almost a year ago and saw that others had a bowl of meat. Fortunately I must have ordered one as a special meal was delivered to my seat consisting of a bagel, fruit pot, and some kind of sage tasting veggie burger AKA “Vegan sandwich”. Wasn’t the greatest meal ever but much needed as it was going to be a long flight.


The vegan sandwich


About 2 hours into the flight I did begin to wonder what would happen if something went wrong as we were nowhere near another airport in a small 2 engine aircraft. I wasn’t worried as I know all about ETOPS standards etc and I think this flight carries way more fuel than it needs in case something does happen. Actually thought it was quite cool to be so remote in a B737 which I had flown so many times on more mundane missions.

Having crossed the international date line for the first time on my way to HNL which gave me 2 cracks at Thursday, I crossed it again on this flight which meant that I lost Friday and it was suddenly Saturday already (shame I wasn’t working!) I was hoping that the captain might announce when we cross the line but he didn’t (he does it all the time so probably not as interesting for him or most of my fellow passengers).

A couple of movies were shown on the first sector but I just listened to my IPod and started writing this report. I find that CO Y seats are quite hard in comparison with other airlines and it doesn’t get any softer after 5 hours. About 3 hours in I had the nightmare scenario for any window seat traveller with a conscience – namely needing the toilet when your seat mates are fast asleep. Not wanting to wake them I held on for a while before the situation got a little more desperate and I started to cough loudly in the hope that they would wake up “naturally”. However naturally they didn’t and I regretting all those orange juices I polished off in the lounge as I had to do what no Englishman enjoys doing or does very well, and I had to deliberately annoy a fellow human being and woke them up. They took it quite well though and I was soon a very relieved man. Very shortly before landing the crew came around to do a second drinks service, just as land began to appear below.


First sight of Majuro


Unfortunately despite having so much time to do a second drinks service the crew left it so late that they only got through half the plane before we had to land. We got a great view of Majuro and the airport on the right hand side before a sharp right turn to line up and land which we did 30 minutes ahead of schedule.


This part was densely populated


View of the airport on downwind


Seconds to touchdown


I noticed there was a fire engine following alongside us as we taxied in, something that happened at every stop. Customers on the ABC side were asked to disembark for a security sweep but I chose to get off anyway even though being on the DEF side I didn’t have to. Unfortunately my neighbours were obviously staying onboard.




Welcome to the Marshall Islands!


When I disembarked I felt heat like I can rarely remember – it was SO hot! After taking some photos I headed into the “terminal” which was really just a large hut with some seats, a bar and of course wifi (so out of keeping with the basic nature of the building). I visited the toilet which smelled a lot like raw sewage and just watched BBC world on the TV whilst waiting to re-board.


MAJ Terminal


Wifi hotspot


Our aircraft taking in the sun during the MAJ turnaround


MAJ-KWA

Boarding was announced way ahead of schedule and I made my way back to the aircraft. It seemed like the next sector would be much lighter but actually once everyone was on it was maybe 75-80% full with of course the seat next to me occupied. I got a little worried when a guy with a ladder appeared and started looking at the wing but he simply dipped a cloth into a cup of water and wiped something off the wing and then put the ladder away! Departure was around 15 minutes ahead of schedule and the take off was again rather leisurely (I guess the runway at MAJ isn’t that short).


Final glimpse of Majuro


This sector was very quick at around 40 minutes in the air and only a juice service was offered by the crew and soon it was time to descend into Kwajalein. There wasn’t much to see on the approach but we were VERY low over the water before land suddenly appeared and we did hit the runway very hard on landing. I guess you’ve got to make sure when you don’t have much runway to play with!
As KWA is a military facility those passengers continuing to other destinations were instructed to stay onboard and an announcement was made that no photography was permitted whilst we were there. I took this as a challenge and managed to get a fair few shots on taxi out (I’ll probably never go there again so wanted something to remember it by).


KWA-KSA

Lots of passengers got off at KWA, including my neighbours and when it came time for boarding very few joined the flight meaning I had 3 seats to myself. Curiously passengers leaving at KWA were instructed to remove their hats before leaving the aircraft! We departed this time 30 minutes ahead of schedule.


Taxi out at KWA


Take off was much more powerful this time and we made an immediate right turn giving me a great view of the airport.


Take off!


You can see how small the airport is!


This flight was around 55 minutes in the air. A snack service was offered consisting of beverage as the Americans like to call drinks, and another light meal, consisting of a Vegan sandwich as featured in the first meal service and a vegan cookie, bread roll and some unidentifiable crap. I hate it how when I order a dairy veggie meal I get vegan rabbit food but I was hungry and at least it was food. However at that point I was looking forward to collecting my hire car in Guam and driving to the nearest pizza hut / Dominos / whatever for my cheese fix.

The flight to Kosrae passed quickly and we were soon making our approach. Unfortunately I was sat on the wrong side to get a view of the airport and island as we made our downwind approach. Now, when I was reading other trip reports of the island hopper I read a few times about having to perform go-arounds and I was hoping for the same on my trip. As we descended for KSA I experienced my first ever go-around, the pilot deciding we were too high to land and stop before falling off the end of the short runway.


No not take off but a go around at KSA!


The folks on the left hand side therefore got another great view of the airport and island. It was second time lucky as we touched down again very early, probably around 35 minutes ahead of schedule. I again disembarked in KSA into the basic and hot hut/terminal.


Attempt 2 at landing and so far so good


Touchdown!


Parked at the terminal


Welcome to Kosrae!


KSA-PNI

The terminal was again very small and hot and had a couple of stalls where locals wee selling fruits and local crafts. The check in desks were in the departure lounge. There were 2 desks, one for economy and the other for Business class / Star Alliance Gold members.


SIN it ain’t but a nice vibe nonetheless


Check-in desks


After around 20 minutes we were called for boarding and I was one of the last back on. When I got back to my seat there was an elderly lady spread across seats DEF and I had to prod her to get her to wake up and move. She went and sat in the row behind so I again had 3 seats to myself for the 50 minute flight to Pohnpei. We were ready to go around 45 minutes ahead of schedule but the captain announced that we had to wait 15 minutes as the next airport wasn’t ready for us yet!


Our aircraft on the ground at KSA


Operated by Air Mike!


Take off this time was very loud and to the point as we used up every bit of the runway. Again there was a fire engine revved up ready to chase us down the runway in case we used an inch too much of runway! This flight was uneventful and only a drink service was offered with pretzels.


Ready for blast off!


As we were approaching PNI the captain announced that we would be making a southern approach and those on the right hand side would get a great view of the island which we did, hugging the coastline of this very green and beautiful island. We banged down and taxied to the terminal.


First view of the beautiful Pohnpei


Rain in the distance


Seconds from touchdown


Only the folks in seats ABC had to disembark here but I again chose to leave the aircraft and check the place out (and take some photos). Terminal was the nicest so far as it was made out of brick and actually had a primitive looking VIP lounge but I resisted the temptation to try to enter with my bmi gold card!


PNI terminal


PNI-TKK

Again we weren’t in the terminal long before boarding was called over an hour before scheduled departure. Determined not to have to prod another elderly woman I made sure I was one of the first to board this time with the elite access mob. Alas there was nobody in my seat but I was soon joined by a gentleman in 24D with the middle left free which was pretty good as the aircraft was at around 90% load I would say. As with everywhere since Honolulu there was no ground handling equipment to speak of and baggage and cargo was offloaded using fork lift trucks and adapted aircraft containers stuck to wooden pallets.


The way it should be done!


Yet again we departed very early, this time around 45 minutes ahead of schedule. I was just hoping that this good fortune would last as far as Guam so I could get a pizza faster! It was another rocket like take off from PNI and we made an immediate left 180 degree turn so those on the left got to see the island that they missed on the approach (with the added bonus of a nice view of the airport I would have thought. Service on the 1 hour flight to Truk consisted of a drink and not one but 2 packets of pretzels. It was again an uneventful flights which is what I generally like as we made our approach to TKK, the penultimate stop on our Micronesian odyssey as our captain liked to call it. Again there were some pretty nice views of this green lush island.


Touchdown in Truk


After landing the FA thanked us on behalf of Continental Airlines and its Skyteam partners, quickly correcting herself to Star Alliance partners. I think this will take some getting used to! In keeping with tradition I disembarked at TKK to check out the terminal and take some photos. This terminal was the most modern of all with clean white walls but no air conditioning.


The last stop


The airport hotel


TKK-GUM

So the final leg and we were called for boarding again very early. This flight went out with only 2 spare seats so needless to say I had company in 24E. Again immediately after takeoff we made a sharp left turn giving the folks on the left side a great view of the airport.


Taking off from TKK


During this flight another snack service was offered which meant my third vegan sandwich of the day . You’ll notice the detail getting sketchier now as it was approaching 14 hours since we left HNL so the attention to detail was fading. At 17:00, 20 minutes ahead of schedule we touched down in GUM and the Micronesian odyssey was over.


Approaching GUM


On reaching the immigration hall there was a long queue to be processed which made me wonder how CO deal with pax on tight connections as there were very few immigration staff on duty. 40 minutes after touchdown I collected my bag (thank god it wasn’t offloaded at one of the en-route stops!) and officially arrived in Guam. I was definitely back in the real world now where life is dominated by queues and crazy rules. Seeing some of the airports of the Pacific I wonder if it really has to be this way. At least in GUM I could get a nice pizza which I duly attended to by taking a detour between the airport and the Hilton Guam resort 

So there you have it, a dream fulfilled. It was very interesting to see how this flight is the lifeblood of many of the islands it visits. It allows residents to access the outside world and the outside world to access them. I noticed the flight carried lots of cargo between the islands and most of the folks that joined en-route had lots of luggage and supplies too. It was great to see how the baggage was loaded using fork lift trucks and improvised pallets and how basic the terminals were. It was also interesting how everyone seemed to know each other and there was a really friendly atmosphere. The crew of the flight were pleasant but not overly friendly as I believed many Air Mike crews are (the crew on subsequent Air Mike flights to CNS and NRT were fabulous however). The pilot did at least thank us all for flying Continental, acknowledging that us folks out here don’t really have much choice anyway! Having said that even if there was a choice I think Air Mike would be the way to go.

I hope this report was an interesting read as it was certainly an interesting trip. For anyone thinking of taking this flight and wondering like I did which is the best side of the aircraft to sit for the best views then I noted below what I thought would have been the best side based on my trip and the wind directions that day. I’ve no idea if that is typical or not but I thought maybe someone may find it interesting if taking this trip Westbound.

HNL-MAJ – Right side
MAJ-KWA – Right side
KWA-KSA – Left side
KSA-PNI – Right side
PNI-TKK – Left side
TKK-GUM – Left side

Finally just a few photos and titbits from the rest of my trip:



Watching “the hangover” in Club ANA en-route LHR-NRT


The huge GE90 powering the NH 77W


Dawn over the Pacific approaching HNL in UA F class from NRT


QF 744 in SYD taken from the T1 viewing terrace


GUM-NRT was on Friday 13th so I should have expected some bad luck. My original flight to NRT was scheduled on the 767-400ER. So far so good as we boarded and took off on time but 30 minutes in the captain announced that there was a hydraulic problem with the aircraft and we would be returning to GUM 


Take off from GUM on our doomed 764


Not being able to fix the aircraft, to Air Mike’s credit they solved the problem very well by simply putting the full 764 load of passengers on 2 738s! 5 hours later and I was off to NRT again! Both aircraft took off from GUM one after the other. Curiously I was on the aircraft that took off second but the captain promised to put his foot down and we arrived at NRT one after the other but we must have pulled an overtaking move somewhere as my aircraft landed first! Not a bad outcome considering, but my planned day in Tokyo was ruined as rush hour traffic meant it was gone 6pm by the time I reached the hotel and after being awake for 36 hours I ended up just crashing.


Take off from GUM, this time on something a little smaller


SQ F on the 77W


Chilling out in my SQ 77W F seat SIN-LHR


Main course Vegetarian breakfast on SQ308 SIN-LHR


Hope you enjoyed the report and photos and feel free to comment and ask questions  Smile
Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
 
jetblue777
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:18 am

WOW!!! Im speechless! That was some amazing pics from the Pacific! Its very rare to see TRs like this. Those were some madd small airports! I love the exotic feeling of the Pacific Islands...... Nice TR!!! Big grin
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STT757
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 2:40 am

This is a trip I've been waiting to take for a long time myself, thanks for adding fuel to the fire.
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Camohe
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:25 am

Great TR. Very interesting.
 
Thule
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:59 am

Thanks a ton for the TR! I love seeing them from rare places like this.

One question: what's the deal with the security sweeps? Do these airports just not have traditional security infrastructure, so they do it "random" by taking half the plane? I'm not really sure what the politics and rules for these things are in Micronesia.
 
jmy007
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 8:58 am

This is the kind of trip report I wait for! thank you so much for taking the time to post!
Cookies are the Gateway pastry. They lead to Éclairs and Bear Claws.
 
ManchesterMAN
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:37 am



Quoting JetBlue777 (Reply 1):
WOW!!! Im speechless! That was some amazing pics from the Pacific! Its very rare to see TRs like this. Those were some madd small airports! I love the exotic feeling of the Pacific Islands...... Nice TR!!!

Thanks. It was really strange being in some of them, knowing you were in the middle of nowhere!

Quoting STT757 (Reply 2):
This is a trip I've been waiting to take for a long time myself, thanks for adding fuel to the fire.

No problem. I've been reading every trip report I see of this flight for years, each time getting more and more desperate to take it. I would highly recommend it if you get the chance. Its a very long way to get from HNL-GUM but it beats the non stop 764 any day!

Quoting Thule (Reply 4):
One question: what's the deal with the security sweeps? Do these airports just not have traditional security infrastructure, so they do it "random" by taking half the plane? I'm not really sure what the politics and rules for these things are in Micronesia.

What happens is that somebody comes onboard and matches all the bags in the overhead bins to the pax onboard. They do this by asking "is this your bag" so not exactly thorough! Anybody like me that gets off an a stop to stretch their legs has to take all their belongings with them. I guess they only do one side at a time so as not to inconvenience people too much but it is much easier to do it with a half empty plane which is why they tell half to get off. I suppose the idea of it is to ensure that nobody that has left the aircraft at a stop has left their bag onboard as this is deemed a security threat (although if the airport screeners have been doing their job properly then it should be more of a lost property excercise).

Quoting JetBlue777 (Reply 1):
Great TR. Very interesting.

Thanks for reading  Smile

Quoting Jmy007 (Reply 5):
This is the kind of trip report I wait for! thank you so much for taking the time to post!

No worries. I rarely do trip reports these days but I knew I had to do one for this!!
Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
 
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airbuseric
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:38 am

Very nice! The pictures from these Pacific islands are stunning, and I fully understand your 'need' to do this trip!
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
 
PlaneHunter
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 10:39 am

Great report with stunning pictures from these Pacific islands, was a pleasure to read.


PH
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ALexeu
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 1:57 pm

Excellent trip report and photos!! You are very lucky to have experianced this. I´ve always wanted to do it!
It´s a nice thing that pax can deplane at every stop (except Kwajealin) and take photo, see the airport etc. Would it have been possible for you to spend a day or two at every stop and take the flight next day for the same fare?

Regards, Alex
 
corey07850
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:19 pm



Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
About 2 hours into the flight I did begin to wonder what would happen if something went wrong as we were nowhere near another airport in a small 2 engine aircraft. I wasn’t worried as I know all about ETOPS standards etc and I think this flight carries way more fuel than it needs in case something does happen. Actually thought it was quite cool to be so remote in a B737 which I had flown so many times on more mundane missions.

And that's in a very modern aircraft... Imagine doing this in a B-17!
 
ManchesterMAN
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:36 pm



Quoting AlexEU (Reply 9):
Excellent trip report and photos!! You are very lucky to have experianced this. I´ve always wanted to do it!
It´s a nice thing that pax can deplane at every stop (except Kwajealin) and take photo, see the airport etc. Would it have been possible for you to spend a day or two at every stop and take the flight next day for the same fare?

It would take a long time as the flight only operates 2x weekly I think! Certainly if you redeem miles you are limited to 1 stopover (over 24 hours) and I guess they would charge more on a revenue ticket as well. Would certainly have been nice to stay in most of the stops and maybe I will next time. I particularly liked the look of PNI.

Quoting Corey07850 (Reply 10):
And that's in a very modern aircraft... Imagine doing this in a B-17!

No thanks  Wink

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 8):
Great report with stunning pictures from these Pacific islands, was a pleasure to read.

Was a pleasure to fly Big grin

Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 7):
Very nice! The pictures from these Pacific islands are stunning, and I fully understand your 'need' to do this trip!

Indeed. I'm already wondering about doing it again the other way around but there are other things I need to do first.
Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
 
AA787
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hop

Sat Nov 21, 2009 5:01 pm

I am so excited... I am taking the Island hopper in March! Thank you so much!
 
zrs70
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 6:41 pm

Great report! I did this a few years back and LOVED it!
RTW: *A And CO In C, Including Island Hopper (by Zrs70 Jan 20 2005 in Trip Reports)
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N104UA
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Nov 21, 2009 10:04 pm

Great TR

I was wondering did they carry a couple crews on the a/c or did they disembark along the way and new ones board.
"Learn the rules, so you know how to break them properly." -H.H. The Dalai Lama
 
salvation
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Nov 22, 2009 1:00 am

You have earned your wings in Micronesia. You no doubt enjoyed the experience. Up until 2000 or 2001 there was an additional stop between MAJ and HNL and that was JON so the trip was even longer than the current "island hopper". Johnston Island was set up similarly to KWA where only those on official orders could disembark. What an amazing experience it was, I've flown the route both ways (GUM-HNL; HNL-GUM) and find the HNL-GUM route to be easier on the body as you follow the sun and arrive GUM early evening. What amazes me even more is the team work involved in making this trip "on-time" almost everytime. You notice how the flight attendants and pilots help ground personnel in each island to ensure ground time is maximized and kept to a minimum.

Congratulations and happy flying!
 
ALexeu
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Nov 22, 2009 2:59 am



Quoting ManchesterMAN (Reply 11):
Certainly if you redeem miles you are limited to 1 stopover (over 24 hours) and I guess they would charge more on a revenue ticket as well.

Did you book via internet or in the office?
 
Milesdependent
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Nov 22, 2009 3:37 am

What an amazing trip report. I absolutely am planning on doing the island hopper in the next few years. I am a country logger as well as aviation enthusiast, so plan on topping at Majuro for a day, and then somewhere else along the way to pick up Micronesia. Which of the Micronesian stops looked the most scenic?
 
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airpearl
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Nov 22, 2009 3:46 am

Thanks so much for this fantastic trip report. I am green with envy! I am sure this is one of the routes on many A.net members' "must do" lists (it certainly is on mine!).... well done for presenting the journey so well, coupled with a set of gorgeous pics of some of the world's most unique locations and least featured airports. It was nice to see that you were allowed to disembark at many of these small airports. Have you not been tempted to get off the plane and spend a couple of days at these idyllic locations?

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
The load in economy was around 70% for the first and longest sector to Majuro which was just under 5 hours.

Wow, that's a long sector for an island hopper! I didn't realize that it's almost the stage length for a Hawaii-US West Coast flight.

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
On this first sector “breakfast” was served

It's interesting that on a flight of 14 hours' duration end-to-end, there's not a proper hot meal being served. I'm not sure if a burger qualifies...

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
After landing the FA thanked us on behalf of Continental Airlines and its Skyteam partners, quickly correcting herself to Star Alliance partners.

LOL I can imagine this near-mistake being repeated right across the CO system around the time...

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
For anyone thinking of taking this flight and wondering like I did which is the best side of the aircraft to sit for the best views then I noted below what I thought would have been the best side based on my trip and the wind directions that day. I’ve no idea if that is typical or not but I thought maybe someone may find it interesting if taking this trip Westbound.

HNL-MAJ – Right side
MAJ-KWA – Right side
KWA-KSA – Left side
KSA-PNI – Right side
PNI-TKK – Left side
TKK-GUM – Left side

Thanks so much for this... I am so tempted to book my own Micronesian odyssey now.  Wink
 
kiwiandrew

RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Nov 22, 2009 6:12 am

Thanks for the TR , this is a route I have been curious about ever since I first 'discovered' it in a magazine article many years ago . I long to do it someday for myself ( preferably from the relative comfort of a seat up front ) .

I like your writing style and nearly fell off my chair laughing when I read the following :

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
as I had to do what no Englishman enjoys doing or does very well, and I had to deliberately annoy a fellow human being and woke them up.

For anyone who thinks the OP was exaggerating for effect I recommend reading "Watching the English" by anthropologist Kate Fox , the quote could almost have come from one of her observations .

It is a shame that the NZ "Coral Route" no longer operates ( AKL-PPT via NAN and RAR with a connection , also sadly no longer operating , on from PPT to LAX ) as I can imagine this would have been an excellent future Pacific project for you .

Thanks again for a fascinating TR .  thumbsup 
 
ba319-131
Posts: 8318
Joined: Sat Jan 13, 2001 1:27 pm

RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Nov 22, 2009 8:18 am

What great TR, must have felt amazing to complete this life long deisre,well done!

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
So, with some domestic Australian flights as well my whole itinerary looked something like this:

LHR-NRT-HNL-MAJ-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM-CNS-BNE-SYD-CNS-GUM-NRT-SIN-LHR flying NH, UA, CO, DJ, QF, SQ and completed in 10 days.

- That sure is a special itinerary, very nice indeed!

Really enjoyed your pictures and text, quite a special read indeed.

Regards

Mark
111 732 733 734 735 736 73G 738 739,7M8 BBJ 741 742 743 744 752 753 762 763 764 772 77L 773 77W L15 D10 D30 D40 AB3 AB6 312 313 318 319 320 20N 321 21N 332 333 342 343 345 346 359 351 388 CS1 CS3 I86 154 SSJ CRJ CR7 CR9 CRK 145 170 175 220
 
ManchesterMAN
Topic Author
Posts: 1056
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Nov 22, 2009 11:47 am



Quoting AA787 (Reply 12):
I am so excited... I am taking the Island hopper in March! Thank you so much!

Have a great flight. I hope the weather is as nice as it was for me  Smile

Quoting Zrs70 (Reply 13):
Great report! I did this a few years back and LOVED it!

Yeh I read your report before I left. They treat you pretty well up front I see!

Quoting N104UA (Reply 14):
Great TR

I was wondering did they carry a couple crews on the a/c or did they disembark along the way and new ones board.

The cabin crew were definately the same 4 the whole way and I only spotted 2 pilots (the same ones) during the whole trip. That said there could have been a third pilot or a change at the first stop as I didn't see the flight crew until the first stop.

Quoting Salvation (Reply 15):
You have earned your wings in Micronesia. You no doubt enjoyed the experience. Up until 2000 or 2001 there was an additional stop between MAJ and HNL and that was JON so the trip was even longer than the current "island hopper". Johnston Island was set up similarly to KWA where only those on official orders could disembark. What an amazing experience it was, I've flown the route both ways (GUM-HNL; HNL-GUM) and find the HNL-GUM route to be easier on the body as you follow the sun and arrive GUM early evening. What amazes me even more is the team work involved in making this trip "on-time" almost everytime. You notice how the flight attendants and pilots help ground personnel in each island to ensure ground time is maximized and kept to a minimum.

Indeed it really is a team effort and an impressive one at that. I was really impressed with the CS pubctuality on all the flights I took actually. Its a shame they cut out the JON stop, I think I could have just about managed another one Big grin I was actually surprised when I added up all the flying time that it was such a long journey as it literally flew by. Looking at the schedule for the GUM-HNL I agree that would be a little harder on the body which is part of the reason I did it this way round in the first place.

Quoting AlexEU (Reply 16):
Did you book via internet or in the office?

I actually managed to get continental.com to work for me!

Quoting MilesDependent (Reply 17):
What an amazing trip report. I absolutely am planning on doing the island hopper in the next few years. I am a country logger as well as aviation enthusiast, so plan on topping at Majuro for a day, and then somewhere else along the way to pick up Micronesia. Which of the Micronesian stops looked the most scenic?

They all seemed to have their different charms and it depends I suppose what you are interested in e.g. if you are into diving reefs then TKK seemed nice and was popular too. However for me I'd say PNI as it was amazingly lush and colourful.

Quoting Airpearl (Reply 18):
It was nice to see that you were allowed to disembark at many of these small airports. Have you not been tempted to get off the plane and spend a couple of days at these idyllic locations?

Of course  Wink

Quoting Airpearl (Reply 18):
It's interesting that on a flight of 14 hours' duration end-to-end, there's not a proper hot meal being served. I'm not sure if a burger qualifies...

I guess "normal" people don't take this flight all the way and get on the much shorter non stop 764 flight.

Quoting Kiwiandrew (Reply 19):
For anyone who thinks the OP was exaggerating for effect I recommend reading "Watching the English" by anthropologist Kate Fox , the quote could almost have come from one of her observations .

LOL I've literally just finished reading this Big grin Unfortunately its all true. Its a wonder we ever leave our own country, although more so I feel for the people who have to come here and deal with our "rules"  laughing 

Quoting Kiwiandrew (Reply 19):
It is a shame that the NZ "Coral Route" no longer operates ( AKL-PPT via NAN and RAR with a connection , also sadly no longer operating , on from PPT to LAX ) as I can imagine this would have been an excellent future Pacific project for you .

Yeh, I was looking for this one quite recently and figured it no longer operated. Any idea when it stopped?

Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 20):
- That sure is a special itinerary, very nice indeed!

Yeh, I've only just recovered, especially as I was straight into a week at work when I returned  Sad Certainly not a trip for catching up on your sleep  tired 
Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
 
cytz_pilot
Posts: 391
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Nov 22, 2009 8:05 pm

Not much I can say that no one else said, but wooooooow. It looks like paradise in those photos. What a trip that must have been! That airport hotel in Truk looks like it is straight out of a Pacific War photo. Sorry your veg meals didn't work out too well. I can relate...they're always so hit or miss, I expect one day I'll open up the box and just see some pieces of tree bark with moss on them.  laughing 
 
beowulf
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:21 am

Wow, a very interesting report. Definitely rare. Does the crew change on the island hopping flight?
 
palmjet
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Mon Nov 23, 2009 6:16 am

Fantastic trip report and pics- thanks v much for sharing your journey!

I wondered if you could share a little more about your trip GUM - CNS, as this is a flight I have rarely read anything about - even though I have been aware of it operating for a number of years (I grew up in Brisbane). When CO pulled out of Australia big time a while back now, the GUM - CNS was the only remnant left which has remained to this day!

Thanks again

P/jet
Eastern - Number One To The Sun
 
ManchesterMAN
Topic Author
Posts: 1056
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Mon Nov 23, 2009 5:18 pm



Quoting Cytz_pilot (Reply 22):
Not much I can say that no one else said, but wooooooow. It looks like paradise in those photos. What a trip that must have been! That airport hotel in Truk looks like it is straight out of a Pacific War photo. Sorry your veg meals didn't work out too well. I can relate...they're always so hit or miss, I expect one day I'll open up the box and just see some pieces of tree bark with moss on them.

Yeh, I think thats UAs vegan meal option!! As for the hotel all I can say is that I'm glad the aircraft didn't break as I wouldn't fancy spending the night there (although I'm sure it is nicer inside).

Quoting Beowulf (Reply 23):
Wow, a very interesting report. Definitely rare. Does the crew change on the island hopping flight?

I don't think so, certainly not cabin crew. I wasn't observant enough to see if the same flight crew did the whole trip but it was definately the same flight crew from MAJ onwards.

Quoting Palmjet (Reply 24):
I wondered if you could share a little more about your trip GUM - CNS, as this is a flight I have rarely read anything about - even though I have been aware of it operating for a number of years (I grew up in Brisbane). When CO pulled out of Australia big time a while back now, the GUM - CNS was the only remnant left which has remained to this day!

I didn't take any photos of either GUM-CNS or CNS-GUM as it was dark for both flights but both were totally full and 85% of those onboard I would say were Japanese connecting from CS flights from all over Japan. Cairns seemed very popular with Japanese tourists (as is GUM) so I guess that is why the flight still exists as CS has a great Japanese network from GUM and CNS and GUM would make a great 2 centre holiday! On these flights all anouncements were made in English and Japanese and they even have smaller Japanese language version of the inflight magazine. It really felt like I was taking a Japanese domestic flight!

The flight in both directions had a full meal service pretty much like you would get on a CO transatlantic flight even though it is only around 4 hours flying time from what I recall and they just about managed to squeze 2 movies in on the overhead monitors. Headsets were free, where as they charged $1 for them on the Island Hopper. The flight out of CNS is a little strange as it departs around 01:30 so is the only flight departing from the terminal (or the whole airport) at that time. I was one of the last to check in at around 00:10 having got delayed 2:15 hours coming from SYD due to a storm over the airport there. Not long after I cleared security and immigration we started boardng and were off a good 30 minutes early arriving into GUM just before sunrise.

I wonder if in the future CS could expand their Australian presence from GUM, maybe adding BNE with a 737 or adding extra frequencies to CNS. It would help if they started a non-stop US mainland - GUM flight, perhaps with the 787. Certainly on the evidence of load factor (I know it is all about yield but it helps if you are filling the seats) CNS is not going to go anywhere soon.
Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
 
infodesk
Posts: 1462
Joined: Thu May 18, 2006 11:06 pm

RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Mon Nov 23, 2009 6:45 pm

Hi Manchester MAN,

What a very special TR! And great that you finally made your dream come true....it seems like it was worth the wait. The appraoches into some of those airports are just breathtaking.

It must have been quite a tiring day, with all the hopping on and off and the excitement of it all. As a fellow veggie, I can understand how glad you were to have pizza at the end of that day  Wink

I really enjoyed reading this TR, thanks for posting!

Happy flying
Infodesk
"Do nothing in haste, look well to each step and from the beginning think what may be the end" - Edward Whymper
 
787seattle
Posts: 335
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Tue Nov 24, 2009 4:21 am

It looks like you had a great, eventful trip! I've always wondered what the Pacific Islands (besides Hawaii) were like with being so remote. Thanks for sharing!
Student - KELN
 
Ex_SQer
Posts: 1351
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2002 5:43 am

RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Tue Nov 24, 2009 10:23 am

I flew to PNI six years ago. Taking this flight was a dream come true, and what made it even sweeter was that a client of mine paid for it!

Quoting Airpearl (Reply 18):
It's interesting that on a flight of 14 hours' duration end-to-end, there's not a proper hot meal being served. I'm not sure if a burger qualifies...

The non-veg option on HNL-MAJ and MAJ-HNL was a hot one when I took the flight.

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Reply 21):
They all seemed to have their different charms and it depends I suppose what you are interested in e.g. if you are into diving reefs then TKK seemed nice and was popular too. However for me I'd say PNI as it was amazingly lush and colourful.

Apart from diving, PNI also has the added benefit of Nan Madol. Google/wikipedia it; it's an amazing sight. PNI is also famous for mangrove crabs. Yum.

Quoting Beowulf (Reply 23):
Wow, a very interesting report. Definitely rare. Does the crew change on the island hopping flight?

I talked to the pilots when they disembarked at Kosrae to buy tangerines (best ones I ever tasted, btw) and they said that they fly all sectors. They told me that although it makes for a long day, the Island Hopper is actually a very easy flight to operate because there is hardly any air traffic en route.

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
The terminal was again very small and hot and had a couple of stalls where locals wee selling fruits and local crafts.

You should have purchased aforementioned tangerines!

Quoting ManchesterMAN (Reply 21):
Yeh I read your report before I left. They treat you pretty well up front I see!

Did you read mine too?  Smile
 
thegreatRDU
Posts: 910
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Tue Nov 24, 2009 4:08 pm

The Air Mike Island hopping seems like a tough feat...
Our Returning Champion
 
ManchesterMAN
Topic Author
Posts: 1056
Joined: Fri Sep 26, 2003 10:57 pm

RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Tue Nov 24, 2009 10:39 pm



Quoting Infodesk (Reply 26):
It must have been quite a tiring day, with all the hopping on and off and the excitement of it all. As a fellow veggie, I can understand how glad you were to have pizza at the end of that day

Oh yeh Big grin

Quoting 787seattle (Reply 27):
It looks like you had a great, eventful trip! I've always wondered what the Pacific Islands (besides Hawaii) were like with being so remote. Thanks for sharing!

I'd definately like to spend some time on some of them and not just the ones I hopped through.

Quoting Ex_SQer (Reply 28):
Apart from diving, PNI also has the added benefit of Nan Madol. Google/wikipedia it; it's an amazing sight. PNI is also famous for mangrove crabs. Yum.

I duly Wikipedia'd it and it looks like a very interesting place that few get to see. Added to my list  checkmark 

Quoting Ex_SQer (Reply 28):
I talked to the pilots when they disembarked at Kosrae to buy tangerines (best ones I ever tasted, btw) and they said that they fly all sectors. They told me that although it makes for a long day, the Island Hopper is actually a very easy flight to operate because there is hardly any air traffic en route.

Thanks for the clarification. I guessed they went the whole way. It may be easy in terms of air traffic but there are some short runways and slightly challenging approaches to deal with.

Quoting Ex_SQer (Reply 28):
Did you read mine too?

I read every single trip report on here about that flight, old and new  Smile

Quoting ThegreatRDU (Reply 29):
The Air Mike Island hopping seems like a tough feat...

Yeh but someone's gotta do it Big grin
Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
 
palmjet
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Wed Nov 25, 2009 1:24 pm

ManchesterMAN - thanks v much for the insight into the GUM - CNS flight.

I was aware that the flight arrives and departs CNS at an ungodly hour - hence why there are few, if any, pics of the aircraft on the ground at CNS. Great to hear the aircraft was full too - I wondered who would be taking this flight. It is a shame that CO pulled most of their Aussie routes. I would love to see an extension of the flight down to BNE, as it's the fastest growing city in Australia and Sth East Qld has always been popular with visiting Japanese (although the market has contracted in recent years).
Eastern - Number One To The Sun
 
crjflyer35
Posts: 510
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2005 2:26 am

RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Wed Nov 25, 2009 4:06 pm



Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
Curiously passengers leaving at KWA were instructed to remove their hats before leaving the aircraft!

It's normal practice on military flight lines to remove headgear to prevent unnecessary FOD on the ramp.
Ok, wait for the RJ to pass, cleared to push tail south Mike, and you're cleared to spin #2 in the push.
 
ManchesterMAN
Topic Author
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Thu Nov 26, 2009 8:38 pm



Quoting Palmjet (Reply 31):

ManchesterMAN - thanks v much for the insight into the GUM - CNS flight.

I was aware that the flight arrives and departs CNS at an ungodly hour - hence why there are few, if any, pics of the aircraft on the ground at CNS. Great to hear the aircraft was full too - I wondered who would be taking this flight. It is a shame that CO pulled most of their Aussie routes. I would love to see an extension of the flight down to BNE, as it's the fastest growing city in Australia and Sth East Qld has always been popular with visiting Japanese (although the market has contracted in recent years).

No problem. CO does seem to have found themself a nice niche with this route. Interestingly (and I just remembered) I saw a very familiar aircraft in CNS, namely a First Choice B757. Anyone know what it was doing there? It was parked up by the international terminal for a few days.

Quoting Crjflyer35 (Reply 32):
It's normal practice on military flight lines to remove headgear to prevent unnecessary FOD on the ramp.

OK thanks. Thought it mught be somthing practical!
Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
 
ManchesterMAN
Topic Author
Posts: 1056
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Nov 29, 2009 5:12 pm

MORE PHOTOS

I dug out some more photos from my trip on the Island Hopper. Enjoy ...


Overview of HNL


A closer view of Majuro


Beginning our turn to line up with the runway at MAJ


Arrival in MAJ


Just arrived at MAJ


Aircraft at MAJ


On the ground at KWA


Take off from KSA


Approaching Pohnpei


Take off from PNI


TKK Terminal View
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RAFVC10
Posts: 1344
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:01 am

Hi ManchesterMAN,

thanks for posting a really nice trip around the Micronesian Islands and so wonderful photos.

Regards,

Gerard
El dia que los gilipollas vuelen, no podremos ver la luz del sol!
 
ManchesterMAN
Topic Author
Posts: 1056
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Dec 05, 2009 10:17 am



Quoting RAFVC10 (Reply 35):
thanks for posting a really nice trip around the Micronesian Islands and so wonderful photos.

Glad you enjoyed it  Smile
Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
 
beeweel15
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sun Dec 06, 2009 7:37 pm



Quoting ManchesterMAN (Thread starter):
Hope you enjoyed the report and photos and feel free to comment and ask questions Smile

Excellent better than excellent. This is the ultimate trip.
 
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asuflyer05
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Tue Dec 08, 2009 1:27 am

Great report! Brings back a lot of memories of my own Island Hopper trip just over two years ago!
 
ealflyer
Posts: 35
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2005 8:03 am

RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:06 pm

Great report and great photos. I remember the article cited by the OP in Airways in the 1990's wherein the aircraft operated was a 727. Without taking away from the OP' s experience, imagine taking this trip in the "old days" with a screaming three holer.
 
Bedo
Posts: 46
Joined: Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:18 am

RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Tue Jan 05, 2010 5:33 pm

Hi ManchesterMAN!

If there were a Ranking of TR, this could get my point for TR of the year. Nice pictures with nice writing.

Thank you for sharing, it was a great time reading you!

Bedo.
bedo
 
ManchesterMAN
Topic Author
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RE: CO957 “A Micronesian Odyssey” – The Island Hopper

Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:42 am



Quoting Beeweel15 (Reply 37):
Excellent better than excellent. This is the ultimate trip.

I agree its one of the best flights around  Smile Now that a few months have passed I want to go again!!

Quoting Asuflyer05 (Reply 38):
Great report! Brings back a lot of memories of my own Island Hopper trip just over two years ago!

Good memories I bet!

Quoting Ealflyer (Reply 39):
Great report and great photos. I remember the article cited by the OP in Airways in the 1990's wherein the aircraft operated was a 727. Without taking away from the OP' s experience, imagine taking this trip in the "old days" with a screaming three holer.

Yeh, that would be too good. Only got to fly the 727 once, and I don't really remember it too well as I was only 8. Was a Dan Air bird flying MAN-CFU!

Quoting Bedo (Reply 40):
Hi ManchesterMAN!

If there were a Ranking of TR, this could get my point for TR of the year. Nice pictures with nice writing.

Thank you for sharing, it was a great time reading you!

Bedo.

Thanks for reading! Was a pleasure to write and an even greater pleasure to take the trip!
Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da

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