Guam International Airport was a very unique experience for me. I am not used to flying from the US and I’m not sure how mainland US airports work, but it is a very different experience to flying internationally at other airports. Guam International requires a different procedure that is more akin to a hybrid of procedures. It isn’t a bad airport by any means but it was not the ideal system for sure. I was definitely confused by the system and needed a little help when I was there, but thankfully aside from a few unique things, everything was pretty straight forward and done easily enough.
Like any trip to the airport to catch a flight, the first thing you need to do is check-in. I was taking Japan Airlines so finding the right area for check-in was not so difficult. JAL is located in the corner of the check-in terminal but I was surprised by the ground staff. JAL doesn’t have many ground staff at Guam, and I would be surprised to see if they did have ground staff, but I was more surprised to see that they contracted out the work to Delta. All of the ground staff had Delta uniforms; in Vancouver, the contracted ground staffs wear nondescript uniforms so that they didn’t have any airline markings whatsoever. Checking-in was very straight forward with the usual questions being asked. With my Canadian passport, I ended up requiring more time than normal. The crew in Guam have very little experience with Canadians so trying to understand the procedures was a little difficult for them. I had a visa that was unique to Canadians and the ground staff had no idea how to mark it. The person who was helping me had to ask one of the senior workers but it was not a difficult work around as they told her to mark it “Canadian”. The part that confused me the most was the process of checking my bags in.
At the check-in counter, they do the mandatory weight check and putting the tags on your bags but unlike most international terminals that I have been to, they require me to bring the bags to a different section for screening. Usually they take the bags right at the check-in counter but I had to drop them somewhere else. After you get your boarding pass and your bags are tagged, you have to bring them to the screening area. There are a few locations for screening and they are marked by “TSA”. Everyone knows the dreaded TSA and how “rough” they can come off. The system was very similar to how I would go to the states from Canada. I always thought this was a unique system. They usually require you to check-in, then take your bags to a special screening section. I only made one small mistake by trying to be helpful. There is a roped off area before the security x-ray machines for all of the bags. There were two women working there and I wanted to put my bags into the lineup by myself to help them but I didn’t know that I was breaking the rules by crossing the roped barrier. They raised their voices to stop me and I was apologetic for not knowing the procedures and that was that. It is as simple as handing your bags over to the workers at the rope and leaving.
Once you finish handing over your bags you head upstairs to screening. The screening area is a bit slow with two lines and one person checking documents. One line is for cabin crew and business/first class passengers, and one line is for everyone else. They wave you in by groups, which I didn’t know, and check your passport and documents. Once they notice everything is fine you proceed to the actual screening. Like any other screening you put your items on the belt and then you walk through. In the US there is the option to go through the standard metal detector and also to go through the body scanners. I really hate the scanners but at the same time I have no real choice. I don’t want to make a fuss and I just want to get things done with. I tried to ask quietly if I could just get a pat down but the TSA officer seemed annoyed at the suggestion so I didn’t even skip a beat and walked right into the body scanner. The body scanners are pretty quick and simple but the idea of someone seeing my grey naked body and not caring, or someone having sex in the room during that time is a bit scary. The body scanners are a completely different conversation but needless to say I was done with the screening in under a minute.
Once you pass through screening you are immediately in the duty free area. I usually do a little duty free shopping but when I was there I was disappointed by the selection and the price. The duty free shop is run by Lotte and there is a DFS Galleria in the main strip in Tumon Bay. If I knew about the prices at the Lotte Duty Free store, I would have bought more at the DFS Galleria. The prices were inflated at the airport and there really was no other reason than it being the place of last resort. I looked around and saw very few people trying to buy anything. I enjoy trying to buy things but the people there didn’t seem so interested in selling to customers either. It felt like a ghost town. The airport also let me down in the food options. I have been spoiled by going to Changi in Singapore, Narita in Tokyo, and YVR in Vancouver. I think these airports do a very good job with their food and duty free options. The stores are fairly big and you can get a lot of good food as well. At Guam, the stores are not very good and the food was terrible. It was standard fast food fare. You are better off eating a lot before you head to the airport and then just getting a drink before you board. Thankfully there is a convenience store where you can get a few drinks at reasonable prices.
Guam Airport is a place with nothing to do before your flight. I would suggest getting there just before your flight. Grab a coffee, do some shopping, or just keep enjoying the beach before you head there. Plan an hour and a half at the airport to clear screening and such and you’ll be fine. The airport is pretty small so going from place to place is not difficult. If I had known how bad the airport facilities were, I might have taken more time before I headed there. Once you are there, you can just relax at the gate and dream of the beach you just left. I was a little depressed that I was leaving hot sunny Guam and returning to the cold winter of Tokyo. As they say, all good things must come to an end.