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April 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 28, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flying to Micronesia? Options to Avoid United

from the April, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It's a clich to talk about how flying is no longer fun, and it is often less so for us divers who fly to faraway places, where plane changes and journeys on small airlines are required. Even when the weather isn't troubling, one can be certain to have major delays or missed flights in places like Papua New Guinea or Indonesia, or even between small Caribbean islands. Flying to Micronesia has always been a hassle, and United's merger with Continental, the dominant carrier, hasn't improved things. Look at the experience of the author of our Chuuk piece:

"When we booked our original connection in Houston, we had a 90-minute layover. Then shortly before the trip, United changed its schedules so that our morning flight to Houston left 42 minutes later. That flight was delayed, so we had less than 30 minutes before departure. Had not a kind tram driver offered us a ride, we would not have made the flight. We overnighted in Honolulu intentionally, but the next day's flight to Guam was delayed, so the original connection time of 45 minutes for the only flight that day to Chuuk was reduced to almost nothing. That meant we had to run, reaching our seat seconds before the doors were closed. Of course, our bags had no chance to make the flight. In fact, 80 bags (mostly belonging to divers) were left in Guam. United told us the plane was overweight, most likely to accommodate the perishables either being carried by locals or being shipped (Guam is Chuuk's supply center). In Chuuk, we spent almost two hours in line to get our chance to fill out missing luggage reports. We were rewarded by United with a voucher valued at $25 to purchase toiletries and underwear, and another voucher for one day's rental of dive gear. Some divers had shipped empty tanks for their rebreathers, and some had to board liveaboards early the next day -- these folks were really unhappy.

"For our return, we had paid six months ahead for "Economy Plus" seats for the Honolulu-to-Houston leg, but we were switched to economy without notice or explanation. I learned from a flight attendant that the people who had our previously-assigned seats were WWII veterans returning from a trip to sites of Pacific battles, so I suspect the seats were gifted by United. Perhaps the old guys deserved them, but I'm partially paralyzed from multiple sclerosis, and economy seats made my journey difficult."

For those with extra time, a preferable way to go is on a nonstop flight through Tokyo, Manila or other airports that offer nonstop flights to Palau. While the prices are a bit more, there's a good chance you can use frequentflyer miles to get across the Pacific.

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