The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) continues implementing new safety protocols with high-grade technology—such as thermal cameras with facial recognition—which, along with other modern systems and materials to ensure physical distancing and hygiene during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic), amount to a $900,000 investment.
The new equipment consists in tech that recognizes the faces of the roughly 8,000 employees that work at the airport, take body temperature, and even warn them if they're not using their masks when approaching security equipment. These novel devices will be installed over the next two weeks.
"We will put eight machines in the security zone and each one has a cost of about $4,000. Signs, hand sanitizer dispensers, cameras, security doors, and dual filter air conditioners have also been installed. In addition to that, the dryers in the bathrooms and the keys of the sinks were replaced by ones with sensors to avoid contact. All this with an investment of $700,000, plus an additional $200,000 for high acrylics that will be placed in the ranks of the security area," said Jorge Hernández, CEO of Aerostar Airport Holdings, LLC.
He added, "we hope that this part of the airport, which is being redesigned, is ready with the panels installed by August."
The company is also evaluating an additional investment within the next month to acquire robots with ultraviolet lights that clean the air and surfaces when the facilities are empty. All of this is in addition to the already established fogging system to disinfect the sectors of high passenger flow—such as the boarding corridors— which, although not as crowded at the moment as before the COVID-19 pandemic, a recovery is observed .
“We used to receive in the security lines about 1,500 people per hour. In June, the daily arrival of passengers was about 3,700 people, while last year it was 14,900. In the month of July, which tends to be the one with the highest passenger traffic—by those who travel from Puerto Rico and the flow of Americans who come—we already see a slight increase," the Aerostar CEO said.
In this regard, José Baquero, director of Security for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, said that the island has been recovering in terms of passenger traffic.
"On July 6 we processed 52 percent of passengers that we received the same day last year, with nearly 7,000 passengers," he detailed.
Receives Federal Aid
$33 million in federal aid were approved for Aerostar to ensure the airport's operation, of which the company has received $50,000.
"The grant is for capital investment and airport expenses, which are far more than $33 million. This helps with reimbursements and, because it is a complex effort and with audits, we have only sent information to be reimbursed nearly $50,000 to get to know the process," Hernández said.