Commercial flights resume at Aguadilla, Ponce airports

By John McPhaul

Given the resumption of commercial flights at Rafael Hernández and Mercedita international airports in Aguadilla and Ponce, respectively, Ports Authority Executive Director Joel Pizá Batiz provided guidance Tuesday on the COVID-19 protocols to be followed by arriving and departing passengers at the two airports starting Thursday.

“We are very happy and excited to resume commercial flights at the Ponce and Aguadilla airports this coming Thursday, April 1,” Pizá Batiz said in a written statement. “For this, we have adopted modern technology such as infrared cameras, strict sanitary measures, a rigorous itinerary of each flight and installed signage, and alcohol [hand sanitizer] dispensers [to prevent the spread of] COVID-19. The health of our passengers, employees and personnel who work there is of the utmost importance to us.”

The Ports chief emphasized that last November the two international airports received certificates of accreditation from the prestigious International Airports Council, after completing their rigorous Airport Health Accreditation Program.

Pizá Batiz also stressed that the use of masks inside the terminals, as well as during the duration of the flight, is compulsory by federal law. Violators expose themselves to severe fines and/or jail. Both airports, as well as airlines, will have masks available for those who need them.

The official recommended that those who plan to travel from Aguadilla or Ponce starting April 1 arrive at least two hours in advance, so there is ample time for the screening processes of the island Health Department and the Puerto Rico National Guard, as well as the inspection of luggage by the federal Department of Agriculture, to be conducted in the fastest and most efficient way possible for all passengers.

Only people who are going to travel, receive a service from a dealer, or offer assistance to a passenger will be allowed inside the terminals. Family members and companions must remain outside the terminals. Minors traveling must be accompanied by their parents or legal guardian. In the case of disabled people, they can be accompanied by a person to assist them with luggage if necessary, Pizá Batiz said.

“Once inside the terminal, we advise passengers to come with a ticket or boarding pass in hand, to speed up the process,” he said. “All passengers must be aware of their luggage, since unattended luggage will be removed for security reasons.”

Pizá Batiz urged those arriving from a flight not to linger inside the terminal, to prevent crowds of people that could interrupt the flow of passengers leaving the facility.

All travelers arriving from a flight are being asked to fill out the application on their mobile device to speed up the screening process upon arrival on the island.

“People who are going to pick up passengers, know that they must remain in their cars, and that there will be a designated area for it, since vehicles will not be allowed to enter the terminal area,” the Ports chief said. “Badly parked or unattended vehicles are subject to a fine or to be removed.”