Well, after trying to use a regional upgrade from a friend on a flight from Manila to Guam, I must say that despite being number one on the list for hours, just 2 hours before the flight, I was bumped from #1 to #4 the upgrade list. By the time boarding started, all 14 seats were taking on the older Continental Micronesia United B737 and I was still waitlisted. I am not familiar with the United Upgrade polices enough to figure out how United Decides who is #1 on the list and who is not, however I do now know that economy on the MNL-GUM flight, especially when seated in the exit row, isn’t half bad!
The 3 hour scheduled flight that leaves from Manila departed at 10:55pm and arrived in Guam at 4:30 am (a bit early). Despite United.com showing that only a “snack” was served in economy and 1st, in actuality a full meal was served. Again, I had a special vegan meal, however the choices for the rest of economy was either beef or fish. I was happy to see fish offered and my neighbor’s fish meal actually looked edible! My neighbor, not wanting his dessert, was kind enough to offer me his Guam made cookies which were incredibly delicious (since my meal did not come with them!)
My flight was actually enjoyable and I am starting to understand why people like United. However, this was an old CO crew so maybe not…. Anyway, despite the good flight, I must say, I hate traveling to the USA from abroad. Security was excessive in Manila and on every leg of this trip. Flying from LAX-HNL-GUM-MNL there was only 1 security check (LAX) and only Customs in the USA. Flying back it was quite the opposite with security/customs at almost every stop!
In the gate area in Manila each person is required additional screening since the flight is bound towards the USA. First each person’s carryon bag is hand checked with someone going through every pocket. Being an invasion of privacy and a violation of the 4th amendment, I have decided that next time on a flight to the USA I’m going to leave open unused condoms and dirty socks and underwear in my bag! (ok maybe not, but I think it would be funny to see their reactions) After each bag was checked, they were taken from the passengers and placed on another table and each person was placed in a cue where a mandatory pat down was performed similar to those for passengers who opt out of body scanners. If that isn’t enough, passengers are required to remove their shoes and their shoes are hand checked!
Of course by this point I was ½ frustrated ½ laughing at the additional security and started taking pictures. I live in the “land of the free” but the home of the frightened! I have decided the government does everything they can to keep us scared of international travel, keeping Americans in a bubble! After all even the EU and the UK does not have as strict security standards! The “security” did not like the fact that I started to take pictures and immediately pulled me aside and asked me what I was doing. I was frank with them and told them that I was taking pictures of their ridiculousness. They then responded that they were doing it for security reasons. I laughed and said “then why don’t you do this for every flight that leaves the Philippines”. I got about 10 blank faces and no one responded! I laughed and continued to board the plane!
Now that my I have been excessively searched and deemed not a threat in a foreign country, I was ready to return home. Just know that if you choose to take United’s HORRIBLE route to the Philippines via Guam and HNL that you MUST clear immigration (no baggage claim/customs) and deal with TSA and have your 4th amendment right violated in Guam and again in HNL if you continue pass Hawaii. Thankfully, I have global entry, so this helped speed up the process of customs upon arriving in GUM. Then, before entering the small gate area, you must clear US customs again (No Global Entry here), because Guam has different entry requirements than the US does, however you only clear immigration technically and when landing in HNL you are required to clear customs, collect your baggage, recheck your bag, and clear TSA again!! Excessive and traveler unfriendly….yes! But then again welcome to United and their fun routes to Manila!
Point of this post: Despite enjoying my flight from MNL-GUM, don’t fly this route back to the mainland unless you have to! It’s not worth dealing with TSA, US customs or the extra security! Sure the meal was good and 1st flight segment is short, but nothing else is worth it! What are your thoughts, do you think our security measures/requirements are excessive?
Small crowded gate area waiting flight to HNL
* I am fully aware that these excessive security measures/customs requirements/etc are not fully in United’s control and they are complying with required regulations. However due to their route network we as travelers are subjected to the excessiveness of security checks before every flight if you’re flying via Gum/HNL from Asia/Asia Pacific/Mirconesia.