Yuma International Airport announced that American Airlines will start requiring masks for all air travelers starting Monday.
The airport has increased the number of flights over the past two weeks, and Airport Director Gladys Brown said she expects more air travel in the coming months.
American Airlines new policy will restrict anyone without any material covering their nose or mouth from entering the plane. Brown said throughout the current pandemic, the air carrier has been taking on health safety precautions, installing air filters on the plane, creating surface disinfecting routines and giving protective equipment to the air crew.
Air travelers will have to bring their own masks or anything that covers the nose and mouth. Brown said that it could be a shirt from out of a suitcase if needed, but it’s needed to board the plane.
The airport also has sanitation practices. Brown said that staff disinfect every surface and pay special attention to which areas are touched more often. But air travelers don’t have to wear a mask to be in the airport.
“We want to make sure that if we see an influx of people coming back that we keep sanitation,” Brown said. “Our team has been extra diligent about sanitizing the airport and making sure surfaces are disinfected, especially those areas that are touched more.”
Brown said that in recent weeks the amount of passengers in planes has been reaching only 17% to 24% of capacity and both the airport and tenants have had a loss in business, especially car rental agencies.
The airport has access to $4.4 million in the Coronavirus Air, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, assistance, which is part of the federal stimulus passed in late March.
Brown said she expects the airport to return to the flight schedule that they had before coronavirus in June and expects travelers’ numbers to return to what they were by fall.
“We’re still running, businesses here are too,” Brown said. “We’re here to be resilient. We’re just trying to rebuild the confidence in the community. We know that people are paying attention to the signs and waiting to hear when they can fly again, and we want to help move that along by listening to information and following guidelines.”
Brown said the airport is also planning some design changes. The airport will get new terrazzo floors in shades of green to recognize the importance of the military and farmers in the community. Brown expects the $700,000 project to be done by the end of the fiscal year in September, but it will be disruptive to business operations, she warned.
Likewise, the baggage carousel will also have parts replaced, which could slow down operations a bit, but Brown said the airport is more excited than concerned about the project, which includes help from the University of Arizona. Parts of the airport like the bathrooms have also been retouched and painted, and Brown said airport tenants have been sprucing up their places as well.
All general aviation runways are also being rehabilitated in a $2.5 million project that is still in the design phase. The project won’t be as disruptive to travelers, but Brown said it’s an exciting project for the airport.
Brown said the airport is still operating and is ready to take in more passengers. People just have to remember to wear the masks before boarding their flights, she said, and by the end of the year travelers will need a Real ID, which has a longer deadline to complete now. But, Brown said she wants people to know the airport is still welcoming people.
“We’re still making sure the airport looks welcoming and homely for the general public,” she said. “We do everything we can to improve. It’s about continuously meeting and beating the standard and to be superior than standard. I think, coming out of where we were with the virus, we’re learning how important it is for us to take care of each other, and we hope to keep that in mind as we move forward.”