8 Surprising United Routes You May Not Know About

Aug 11, 2016

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TPG Contributor Michael Spelfogel outlines eight lesser-known United routes, in case you’re feeling adventurous and have some MileagePlus award miles to spare.

From tiny Pacific atolls to Northern Lights territory in Alaska, here are eight of the strangest, most unexpected routes you can fly on United Airlines — all of which can be booked with MileagePlus award miles if you’re up for a different sort of trip.

1. Honolulu to Guam (HNL–GUM) via the Island Hopper

On what is quite possibly the oddest route of any airline in the world, United flies three times a week between Hawaii and Guam by way of five pacific islands — Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands (MAJ), Kwajalein Atoll (KWA), and Kosrae (KSA), Pohnpei (PNI) and Chuuk (TKK) in Micronesia. Each stop is for less than an hour and the whole trip takes about 14.5 hours total. Fares are usually pretty expensive but I was able to redeem 35,000 MileagePlus miles each way. For more on what it’s like to fly this route, check out my review of the Island Hopper experience.

United flight 154 after leaving Majuro Airport (MAJ). Image by the author.
United flight 154 after leaving Majuro Airport (MAJ). Image by the author.

2. Guam to Sapporo (GUM–CTS)

United operates a hub in Guam, but it’s particularly surprising that the airline flies nonstop to Sapporo twice a week given the city’s small size and the carrier’s many other routes from throughout the Pacific to Japan. This flight could be useful for ending an island hopper itinerary though, especially if you wish to make the most of United’s routing rules before the change on October 6.

Guam has several beach resorts. Image courtesy of <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-201665225/stock-photo-beach-in-guam-island-usa-pacific-ocean-air-view-transparent-turquoise-water-of-bay-many-boats-and-sunbeds-white-sand-tropic-scene.html?src=WmY7kK0ptdrqWWS1Aqd1zg-1-22">Shutterstock</a>.
Guam is home to a United hub and several beach resorts. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

3. Tokyo to Honolulu (NRT–HNL)

As one of the most surprisingly competitive routes out there, United operates its three-cabin 777-200s with lie-flat seats in business class so you can relax during the eight-hour ride between these two popular cities. This route is pretty good for award availability, too, with economy redemptions starting at 25,000 MileagePlus miles each way.

Honolulu's Waikiki beach is famous for luxury hotels and popular with beachgoers. Image courtesy of <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-358901948/stock-photo-waikiki-beach-in-honolulu-hawaii.html?src=undefined-1-0" target="_blank">Shutterstock</a>.
Waikiki Beach is known for its luxury, beachside hotels — and views of Diamond Head. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

4. Singapore to Hong Kong (SIN—HKG)

One of United’s historic fifth-freedom routes, the airline offers daily service on its three-class 777-200 between the two Asian hubs as a continuation of its flight from Chicago (ORD). Note that Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific also have multiple flights per day between the two airports, and probably offer a more luxurious experience.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore, pictured here, are important economic, and airline hubs. Image courtesy of <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-150463478/stock-photo-singapore-skyline-and-view-of-marina-bay.html?src=vXOyPPchqT5gn37xQ0FHWA-1-2" target="_blank">Shutterstock.</a>
Both Hong Kong and Singapore (pictured here) are important airline hubs in Asia. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

5. Palau to Manila (ROR—MNL)

An interesting route that’s technically the last ‘hop’ of the Island Hopper from Honolulu (more on that above), United flies from Palau to Manila in the Philippines twice per week on a Boeing 737 Micronesia-configured aircraft. Palau is probably best known for Jellyfish Lake, one of the only places on earth where you can swim with stingless jellyfish — I have to say, it’s one of the craziest, most surreal things I’ve ever experienced!

Stingless jellyfish thrive in the waters off Palau. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

6. Chicago to Fairbanks (ORD–FAI)

United only operates this route seasonally during the summer, making it a great way to get to northern Alaska from the lower 48. Be sure to check which aircraft you’ll be flying, as both the 737 and an internationally-configured 757 have been used, meaning you’ll end up with lie-flat seats in business if you’re fortunate enough to be on the 757. Business-class redemptions start at just 30,000 MileagePlus miles each way, so no excuses.

The northern lights are visible most of the year in Northern Alaska. Image courtesy of <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-143438332/stock-photo-spectacular-auroral-display-over-the-glacier-lagoon-jokulsarlon-in-iceland.html?src=undefined-1-0" target="_blank">Shutterstock</a>.
The Northern Lights are visible most of the year in northern Alaska. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

7. San Francisco to Hangzhou (SFO–HGH)

This is the first transpacific route available to and from Hangzhou, operated by United’s shiny new 787-9 Dreamliner. United’s San Francisco (SFO) to Xi’an (XIY) and SFO to Chengdu (CTU) flights are also unique since the airline serves these three Chinese airports nonstop from the US without having to transit through Beijing or Shanghai. Keep in mind, however, that Hangzhou was deemed the most delayed airport in the world last year, with only 41% of its flights arriving on time.

The extended visa waiver will also cover Hangzhou and Nanjing. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Hangzhou is known for its many gardens. And flight delays. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

8. Guam to Yap (GUM–YAP)

United only flies to the tiny Pacific island of Yap twice a week (the plane then continues to Palau). It’s only about a 90-minute hop from Guam or Palau, with flights leaving in the middle of the night to meet early morning connections in Guam, a major Pacific hub.

A free diver rises to the surface off the coast of Yap. Image Courtesy of <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-205133053/stock-photo-a-free-diver-ascends-to-the-surface-after-exploring-a-cavern-on-the-island-of-yap-micronesia-the-coral-reefs-here-have-eroded-into-a-series-of-caves-and-deep-crevices.html?src=sWdNmLOedDar5b9Y__7EAw-1-37">Shutterstock</a>.
A free diver rises to the surface off the coast of Yap. Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.

What are your favorite international United routes? Sound off below.

Featured image courtesy of the author.

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