Route: Honolulu to Guam (via Majuro, Kwajalein, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk) Airline: United Airlines Plane: Boeing 737-800 Frequency: Three times a week
The route map of United Airlines flight 154 looks more like a constellation than a flight path: the dot-to-dot lines between the far-flung Western Pacific outposts at which the Boeing 737-800 makes stops almost resembles the Big Dipper.
The westbound “Island Hopper” begins in Honolulu, crosses the International Date Line and stops first at Majuro and then Kwajalein (both are atolls in the Marshall Islands). Once passengers and freight are unloaded and loaded, 154 continues to Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. The flight terminates 14 hours and nearly 7,000km after it began, at Antonio B Won Pat International Airport on the Island of Guam.
Few passengers actually make the full trip from Hawaii to Guam because United also offers a direct service from Honolulu. But if you live or have business on one of these tropical outliers, United 154 is your least complicated way to get there.
The 737 is the perfect jet for this mission – its ability to land on shorter runways means that it can easily handle the conditions that might otherwise make this route impossible. What’s more, each stop is a chance to refuel.
Still, a route like this is not without risks and United is said to equip each flight with an extra pilot, a technician and spare parts. Given this, and the fact that no other carrier serves these destinations in such a way, the cost of the ticket is relatively high – on average the return full fare ticket from Honolulu to Pohnpei is around €1,400.
Over the years the route has belonged to a few carriers but most recently to Continental Micronesia, which was absorbed by United during its merger with Continental Airlines. For the communities that depend on this vital link it would seem most don’t really care which livery is on the plane that rolls down the tarmac everyday, just as long as the flights keep on coming.
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