From mandatory temperature checks and masks to sneeze guards and touchless airport features, airline passengers going through the Guam airport will have to adjust to the "new normal" in flying that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought.

On Wednesday, United Airlines, the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority and the Guam Visitors Bureau unveiled health and safety protocols to some 200 visitor industry representatives.

The unveiling included a more-than-hourlong walk-through that gave the group a front-row seat to what Sam Shinohara, United's managing director of airport operations for Asia-Pacific, said was the "new normal" in traveling.

Part of it was an in-flight experience, in which participants were given boarding passes, walked through U.S. Transportation Security Administration screening, passed through airport corridors, and boarded a United aircraft – all with new health and safety protocols.

They also had the experience of "arriving" at the Guam airport with the procedures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"We want all travelers to know that we are working together as an industry to make the travel experience safer for everyone that passes through Guam's airport," Shinohara told the group.

New measures implemented as a result of the pandemic include mandatory temperature and health checks right after passengers get to the departure area, hand sanitizing stations, United's touchless check-in process, and regular sanitization of frequently touched surfaces such as passenger carts, as well as cabin sanitization using electrostatic spray.

Numerous signs on floors, walls and ceilings remind passengers to wear a mask, practice social distancing and frequently wash hands.

Counters used by the airlines, TSA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency and others now have sanitary shields or sneeze guards.

Touchless features include automatic soap dispensers and automatic paper towel dispensers in restrooms.

"You’re going to see increased airport police and security guards and that’s to enforce our new protocol procedures. We also expanded the scope of work for all our contractors," said GIAA Executive Manager John Quinata.

While Guam's tourism has no new reopening date yet after a July 1 plan was scrapped, the procedures are now in place to make every passenger and employee safe, industry executives said.

"At this time, it is very safe to use the Guam international airport. We made processes and procedures so that passengers leaving and passengers arriving are safe to go through our airport," Quinata said.

Quinata said COVID-19 testing is currently not offered at the Guam airport, but it is part of discussions among the governor's physician and recovery teams.

"To those who have an elevated temperature of 100.4, we will direct to the nurse station to do further assessment and questioning," Department of Public Health and Social Services nurse Haydee Lynn Briginio said during the walk-through.

Passengers arriving from high-risk areas are required to undergo mandatory government quarantine, while those from low-risk areas can quarantine at home.

Wednesday's event was dubbed "United Together for Guam," which showed how United Airlines and government agencies partnered together to keep residents, employees and travelers safe throughout the Guam travel experience. 

GIAA Deputy Executive Manager Ricky Hernandez said these "unprecedented times" required an "unprecedented walk-through" that allowed "passengers" to learn firsthand the new health and safety protocols.

"The reason why we put all this together is to get everybody on the same page that we are taking safety measures very seriously and as we progress and try to get back on our feet, this is how Guam is going to move forward into this new normal and create a sense of safety and security but at the same time offer the most unique thing we have for this island which is our beautiful Hafa Adai spirit," said GVB director of tourism research Nico Fujikawa.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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