As social distancing standards began to ease and Virginia settled into Phase 1 of the reopening process, Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport introduced new protocols Monday to ensure the safety of its flyers.
As part of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 63, face coverings are required for people over the age of 10 inside public buildings, including any waiting or congregating areas associated with boarding public transportation.
While the order does not specifically identify airports as a location where face coverings are to be worn, the Weyers Cave airport will require a face mask inside its terminals, screening process areas and onboard United Airlines aircraft as required by the airline.
“As travelers begin to book flights again, United/SkyWest [Airlines] and TSA are working diligently to keep passengers, crews and staff safe with new procedures on the ground and in the air,” said Heather Ream, director of marketing and communications for SVRA.
Passengers will be allowed to keep their face masks on during the screening process, but Ream said a Transportation Security Administration agent may ask the individual to adjust it. Those who do not wear a mask when onboard the aircraft will be provided one.
Ream said TSA has procedures in place to practice social distancing and is regulating the distance between travelers and agents when possible during the screening process.
During the boarding process, Ream said, United Airlines has also promoted social distancing by limiting the middle seat selection on aircraft and moving passengers when necessary.
Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will be provided to passengers when boarding, a self-scan system will be used for boarding passes and sneeze guards at check-in stations and gate podiums have been installed.
Before boarding, all high-touch areas are being disinfected.
“Items like magazines and blankets have been temporarily removed. Measures are also in place to reduce contact between flight attendants and passengers,” Ream said.
For passengers concerned with how to keep their belongings sanitary during the screening process, TSA agents ask that all personal items to be placed inside a carry-on to eliminate cross-contamination.
If a passenger presents an expired driver’s license or state-issued identification that expired on or after March 1, 2020, TSA will accept it.
Ream said there were advantages to passengers choosing to travel from a smaller airport during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the ability to social distance easily and less time spent at the airport before takeoff and after landing.
“Passengers can still arrive an hour in advance at SHD and spend minimal time at baggage claim when they return home,” she said. “We encourage Valley travelers to familiarize themselves with the most recent updates from United and TSA prior to departure and to always follow Center of Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for travel.”