The Transport Security Administration has given the Guam International Airport Authority 90 days to come up with a plan to separate departing and arriving passengers.

In addition to those troubles TSA officials in Guam must also carry through on a federal ban on lighters and matches on the secure side of the airport — and in check-in luggage; and implement plans to relieve the crush at the security checkpoint on the upper floor.

Adolf P. Sgambelluri federal security director at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told the Journal the edict on immediate separation of passengers followed a visit by a TSA inspector from Washington D.C. on Dec. 13 who told Sgambelluri the airport should make arrangements immediately to divide passengers. Sgambelluri said “I said ‘right now?’ He said ‘yesterday.’”

Rope dividers were put in place on the concourse to separate passengers. Sgambelluri said “Everybody had to go through a change of pace. There’s been tremendous cooperation at the airport. The authority the airlines we’re all trying to make it happen. We don’t want the airport to be shut down. He never said that but he alluded to that. If you read the law it says the airport should not be operating [with passengers mingling] and that means a shutdown.

“At this point we have a short-term solution. The airport has 90 days to come up with a solution and hopefully it will satisfy Washington. They still have to work on the long-term solution.”

Frank F. Blas Sr. chairman of the board of the Guam International Airport Authority told the Journal “I’ve been briefed by both sides — the airport authority and TSA. The board will comply with the requirements that are imposed on our airport by TSA although it creates for us on a permanent basis some challenges in terms of funding the actual modifications to configure the airport site so we separate the passengers.”

He said the first imperative was to comply and the board was enthusiastic about cooperating. “We’ve hired an architectural engineering firm — Tanaguchi Ruth & Associates. They are in the process of giving us some ideas of what the preliminary thing would look like as well as some cost considerations.” Blas said it was too early to speculate on cost or design.

Guam International Airport had never dealt with the issue of its mixing of departing and arriving passengers which was against federal law Sgambelluri said.

“It’s not new; it’s never been enforced. It goes back several years to when a memorandum of understanding was put in effect by Title 49 of the CFR [Code of Federal Regulations]. Every passenger transiting and coming through a U.S.-controlled airport would need to be inspected at the checkpoint and none of the outbound and inbound passengers should be commingling.”

Airports are designed with a story for arriving passengers a story for departing passengers and a cargo level Sgambelluri said. “We are missing the third deck.”

He said the TSA order had caused staffing issues for his office. “We’re using a lot of manpower resources to ensure there is a delineation — a makeshift no-contact.”

Regional issues had underlined the airport’s need to tighten its arrangements he said. “Everything is contingent on the assumption that this is a very vulnerable area. We are too close to flashpoints like Indonesia and the Philippines.”

Also Sgambelluri must implement a congressional order with effect from Feb. 15 banning cigarette lighters and matches on the secure side of the airport and in luggage. “Passengers may not come through the checkpoint with those items. The Japanese tourists will get impacted by this — at least 85% are smokers.” Vendors might also be affected he said. “What I was told from Washington is there is a directive coming out making reference to the federal law and obviously we are giving sufficient time to people. If there’s anybody selling those items in the sterile area we may have to write them a letter and tell them they can’t sell them — that is still unclear. The vendors will be receiving a letter from me next week [from Jan. 10] telling them they may have to take lighters off their shelves.”

Airport facilities including restaurants would have particular arrangements for smoking clients Sgambelluri said. “The government is supposedly going to have a smoking lamp so you can put in your cigarette and light it up so you will be able to smoke but you may not light the cigarette yourself.”

Staff at the airport would also be affected Sgambelluri said. “We have a lot of employees in the sterile area that carry cigarettes and lighters that are going to be impacted too — it’s not just the passengers.”

Saipan International Airport — which is implementing its own security upgrades (See “Saipan International Airport to undergo FAA upgrades“ on Page 24) would also be affected by the February ban on lighters and matches. “It’s the same date for Saipan. It would be all U.S.-run airports — I’m sure the Federated States of Micronesia would be the same because they have a U.S. carrier.”

Guam International Airport will however be effecting additional lanes at the upper level checkpoint. “According to GIAA work at the checkpoint should be completed by the middle of January. That would give us five lanes. The equipment and X-ray machines are already here. That would speed things up quite a bit.” Sgambelluri said TSA was also considering putting tables with receptacles at the upper level so departing passengers might deposit unacceptable items — “contraband” — before passing through the checkpoint. MBJ