The Samoan islands is divided into two different parts: American Samoa and Western Samoa. American Samoa is a territory of the United States, while Western Samoa is an independent nation. The short, 30-minute flight between the two is an adventure of its own. And it is not for the faint of heart! Here is everything you need to know about flying between the Samoan islands.
Pago Pago, American Samoa
There is only one airport in American Samoa. It is called the Pago Pago International Airport. Despite its name, the airport is actually located in the village of Tafuna and not in Pago Pago. This is a small open-air airport that is rarely busy. There are only a few airlines that fly into and out of this airport, and there is only one terminal. So, you won’t have any trouble finding your way around this airport!
If you are flying out of Pago Pago to Western Samoa, you will only need to show up for your flight about an hour to an hour and a half in advance. Not only does security and check-in not take long here, but they also don’t open until about an hour or so before the flights. Security here consists of one employee sitting at a table just before you reach the check-in desk. This employee will show you a sign of some prohibited items and ask if you have any of them in your bags. Once he is satisfied with your answer, he will tag your bag and send you to check-in.
At check-in, they will check your identification, check your bags, and give you your boarding pass like in most airports. However, here, they will also give you an approved carry-on tag for your carry-on items. They will also weigh you and your carry-on’s to make sure the weight on the plane is balanced!
Apia, Western Samoa
Apia is the capital and largest city in Western Samoa. It is also the location of the country’s two airports. Faleolo International Airport is the larger of the two. However, when flying to and from Pago Pago, you will be using Fagali’i Airport, which is only two miles from downtown Apia. This is definitely one of the smallest airports you will ever see. The only flights in and out of here go to American Samoa. There is only 1 runway, 1 terminal, 1 check-in desk, and 1 baggage claim. There is a money exchange booth here, and taxis are readily available.
The security and check-in procedures here are pretty much identical to what you will encounter in Pago Pago. It is a simple process that begins about an hour to hour and a half before your flight. Many times, at both airports, you will see the employees processing multiple flights at once. These planes usually take off and land one right only minutes apart.
Of the two airlines, Polynesian Airlines is the larger and the busiest. Roundtrip airfare for flying between the Samoan islands on this airline is $150 per adult and $125 per child. Polynesian Airlines offers multiple flights per day between the two airports. The flight takes approximately 35 minutes. The planes used by Polynesian Airlines for this flight are small propeller planes that seat 15-20 people. Most flights are near capacity. The baggage limits for Polynesian are no more than 2 bags per person, weighing no more than a combined weight of 44 pounds and 1 small carry-on item per person. When we flew to Apia from Pago Pago, we used Polynesian Airlines and were pleased with their service.
Talofa Airways is smaller than Polynesian. They offer about 6 flights per day between Pago Pago and Apia. The airfare on this airline is $155 per adult and $140 per child. The baggage policy on Talofa Airways is 1 small carry-on item per person and 1 checked bag per person, not exceeding 45 pounds. This flight takes only 20 minutes. However, the planes used by Talofa are smaller, seating only a maximum of 10 passengers.
The advantage to this particular flight, however, besides the short duration, is the wonderful scenery you get to experience at both the beginning and end of the flight. Both islands are lovely from the ground, but you gain a whole new perspective on their natural beauty from the air. The lush green of the rainforest-covered mountains set against the blue water of the ocean is breath-taking. It is a view you cannot get any other way.
As you might imagine, regardless of which airline you choose, the plane will be small without much space. There is no real separation between the passengers and the pilots, so you will be able to see the pilot and their instruments during your flight. The flights are quite bumpy due to being in a small plane and the approach to any of the islands tends to cause some turbulence. If you are claustrophobic or anxious about flying, this is probably not the flight for you. I’m not bothered by either, but even I was a little nervous about being able to actually see the pilot fly the plane!
One additional element to this particular flight that you need to be aware of is the landing in Apia. The small runway ends at the foot of a mountain. This is slightly nerve-wracking when you are watching the pilot land out the front windshield of the plane. Once the plane has landed and slowed down, the pilot then makes a U-turn on the runway! This is because the terminal is at the other end of the runway from where the planes stops, and there is no other way to taxi to the terminal!
This U-turn took me completely by surprise! I have never seen a plane do this! I didn’t know what was happening at first! It was crazy! So, consider yourself warned!
Because of the short duration, the flight between American Samoa and Western Samoa is a very convenient one to make. It is also quite beautiful. If you are looking for an adventurous flight that will leave you with a good story to tell your friends, this is definitely the flight for you. American Samoa and Western Samoa have many things in common, but are very different at the same time. Flying between the Samoan islands is easy to do. This makes it possible to take advantage of everything both nations has to offer. Happy travels!