Just on outskirts of Apia town, the capital of Samoa is Fagalii Airport. It is here that you would go to fly to American Samoa using smaller eight seater planes. It is not much of an airport and you might miss it if you are not looking for it but it is useful for the purpose it was designed for: for planes to take off and land.
I am unsure how the airstrip got started. Normally, it is because of the US Air Force during World War II would take any flat land and make it a bombing strip. This would be the story there but I am not really sure. I do know that the first time I used it back in 2003, it was still completely grass. It reminded me some of the outerlining islands of the Philippines to be honest.
The reason that Fagalii Airport is popular is because of its location in connection to the popular in Apia. They like the short five minute drive up to the airport over the forty minute drive to the main airport. It does make sense for people coming from American Samoa to do business. They can get in and out very quickly.
Terminal layout at Fagalii Airport
Well, there is not even really a terminal. It is more just a building on the side of the road than anything. There is a little check in booth that handles customs as well. There is a bench for waiting for the planes and that is it. I am kinda surprised that they just don’t have a hut for a terminal. It really is that basic.
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Most airports tell you to arrive about two hours before an international flight but if you sit there for two hours, you will be bored out of your mind. I would suggest to get there about 45 minutes beforehand and you still should have a lot of time to kill. Samoans are famous for being late and that includes flights!
What about checkin at the airport?
You can take your image of a checkin counter like you would see at Sydney or Manila and forget it. It is one guy at one counter that does everything. He will check your tickets, stamp it. Then, he will do something that I have never seen anywhere else but in Samoa….. he will ask you to stand on the scale to weigh you too. I have never had American Airlines ask me that when I checked in at Kansas City International but they do at the Fagalii Airport in Samoa!
Unless you have a problem with weight, you will just go and sit down on the bench and weight to for the plane to arrive from American Samoa to get on board. That’s it. You are checked in now and you are officially bored out of your mind!
According to their website, you can check one bag that is 44 pounds (20 kilos) and you can have a carry on that up to 12 pounds (5 kilos).
Food and drinks at Fagalii Airport?
I hope you are joking but there is no Hard Rock Cafe or even a McDonalds there. (There is one in Apia though) There is not even a lady selling snacks there. It is really that small of a terminal.
The good news is you can walk across the street to a little shop that some lady runs out of the front of her house and buy basic snacks and soft drinks. You won’t get anything like a full meal there but for things like chips and a Coke you should be fine. Look at this way: it is your only option!
However, the airlines are very touchy about having food on the plane so make sure you have it all eaten by the time the plane arrives. I am not sure why some chips can’t be on the plane but they are very strict on this.
Getting to and from the airport
There is a bus that runs around downtown Apia that is marked by the village name, Fagalii. You will just flag the driver down so you can get on the bus. He will probably cruise around some more looking for more people. Once he gives up, he will drive up to the village which is only about a ten minute drive. The fare should be less than a dollar.
You can always take a cab up to the terminal as well. You should not pay more than $5 for the trip. If the driver demands more (they are known to do that), just make him show you the chart that the government has made about how much the fare should be. I would think handing them 10 tala (local currency) should be more than enough for the short ride.
Walking to the airport is out of the question. You would think an early morning walk could happen but you don’t want to be the breakfast for the pack of wild dogs in Samoa. Wild is a understatement for the dogs in the country too. They are wild in more ways than one.
Good news is you America bound!
While the Fagalii Airport is something depressing for a modern world, the good news is you will be back in the developed world in an hour or less. The airport in American Samoa is much nicer (and air conditioned). Saying it is step up would not be a fair comparison. It is a whole different level of discussion.
With that said, the airport does work for what it was made for: being an airport. It just is not anything like travelers would expect in 2017. It is something we would think was out of a MASH show on TV land.
Hopefully, the government of Samoa will invest in a decent terminal for Fagalii Airport but until then, the people (and tourists) have to use what they have been given and that is this old brick building they call the terminal for the airport.