Ping! Boarding completed. Here we go again – finally! A crazy trip is starting.
By now I am flying somehwere over Greenland. Some more food, a few more drinks, 4 hours to go. The destination? Hard to tell. Once around the world with lots of stops on the way – in 8 days.
It all started with a very cheap United Airlines fare from New York to Manila with stops in San Francisco, Honolulu, Guam and Palau. The flight from Honolulu to Guam would be on the legendary United Airlines island hopper, a 5-stop flight through the Pacific islands of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. As there is nothing I love more than interesting flight routes and obscure places, I didn’t hesitate for a second. Now I just needed a way to get from Europe to New York and then back from Manila – with the use of a few frequent flyer miles I was ready to circumnavigate the globe.
There will be so much flying in cramped economy class seats over the next days that I chose to spend a few extra miles in order to fly the first flight from Frankfurt to New York in Business Class. So all in all, day 1 starts off very relaxing.
After landing in New York, I still have some time to walk around the city.
I am sitting in the United Club Lounge at Newark Airport, happy as a baby. The United.com website allowed me to select different seats for all the single legs of the flight so I could have the perfect view over every single island. You should have seen the look on the face of the nice check-in lady as the printer started spitting out 11 boarding passes at once.
Ok, here we go. In the next two days I will be in the air for 26 hours with 15 hours ground time in total and a short night in Honolulu.
First flight: Newark – San Francisco. Nothing to write home about but it’s nice to know that the cold weather from Europe and New York is behind me now. From now on it will be all sunshine for a few days. I use my transit time in SFO to grab a quick bite and then we go off again. Next stop – Honolulu. The flight is so bumpy that there is no service for the first 4 hours – thank god for that burger in SFO.
Too bad I don’t have more time here in Hawaii. But I am not here to relax. So after an enjoyable evening I went to bed early as the next day would start early again.
6 am in Honolulu. I am a excited. I am finally doing it, I am flying on UA154, the “island hopper” or, as normal people call it “why don’t you take the direct flight to Guam?”.
The first leg to Majuro is the longest leg of the island hopper with a flight time of 4 hours and 50 minutes. And it crosses the international date line – I am landing one entire day after takeoff even though the flight just takes around 5 hours. My inner clock is completely messed up by now.
I spend the next hours landing and taking off at five wonderful islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean: Majuro and Kwajalein in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Kosrae, Pohnpei and Truuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. And it is awesome! The views upon landing are spectacular. Most of the passengers change at every stop so I get to know new people every hour and hear about their lives so far from anything in the world. Apart from Kwajalein, home to a huge US military base, it is possible to get off at every stop and I could use the hour of ground time to walk around the tarmac and the airport.
After 14 hours of flight I arrive in Guam. Yes, I am a little bit tired but would I do it again? Yes, definitely. The island hopper is much more than just a flight (or five flights) – it is a gateway to a world so different from what we know. It is so hard to imagine how these tiny islands so far off everything. And this flight really wets my appetite to spend some time at a Pacific Island. Good thing I will spend the next days in Palau, another island nation in the Pacific. But for now, I am off to my hotel in Guam to get some much needed rest.
You can access part 2 of my journey here.