United Airlines’ corporate communications office will be responding to Sen. Jesse Lujan’s letter penned to Sam Shinohara, UAL managing director of operations, about a new travel policy implemented in Hawaii that’s causing concern with Guam passengers.
“United is reviewing the letter and will respond directly to Sen. Lujan,” airline representatives told The Guam Daily Post March 24, the day after Lujan announced he had sent the letter.
The vice chair of the legislative committee on air transportation and tourism asked Shinohara about a “new travel policy that Guam passengers must now endure while traveling to the mainland through Honolulu.”
“As the managing director for United operations at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, I’m sure you understand how crucial it is for passenger transits to be streamlined, fluid and Guam-efficient. But with the current procedures in place, many of our people find themselves in stressful situations, both physically and mentally. As many constituents have mentioned to me, these new additional steps to passenger travels seem not only cumbersome but discriminatory as well,” Lujan said.
Lujan, when describing the new travel policy, wrote that Guam passengers in transit to the contiguous U.S. must claim their bags upon arrival, despite the island not being an international destination. Passengers then recheck bags after being processed through Customs and an agricultural agent before processing through Transportation Security Administration screening and catching their flight.
It’s an inconvenience, but also discrimination, according to the senator.
“These new protocols add to a list of discriminatory actions towards our people. But with our geostrategic importance, our rising significance to military operations in the Indo-Pacific, our high volume of enlistments to the armed forces itself, and the fact that we are U.S. citizens, we should not be treated this way,” Lujan said.
The lawmaker clarified he is not “blaming” United, but, rather, is seeking answers as to “why” the new measures were put in place.
“Who is responsible and what can be done to eliminate or mitigate the discriminatory and burdensome effects on Guam travelers? With many constituents raising questions, complaints and inquiring about the new procedures, I hope to receive an explanation for my questions. Why are supplementary steps added for Guam passengers to endure when transiting through Hawaii from Guam on the way to the U.S. mainland?” Lujan asked.
GVB ‘agrees’ with Lujan
The Post reached out to the Guam Visitors Bureau, which keeps tabs on incoming and departing travelers, for comment regarding the letter, but GVB was not aware of the letter until a copy was provided to them by the Post.
After reviewing the letter, GVB acting president and CEO, Gerry Perez, said he agreed with Lujan’s characterization of the travel policy.
“We agree that this change in policy is inconvenient for travelers coming from Guam and conversations need to be directed toward the airline carrier on why this decision was made,” Perez said.
Guam International Airport Authority executive manager, John Quinata, also noted the negative response the policy has received from passengers.
“Complaints where not addressed to the GIAA. It was more towards their process. I am not familiar of what organization made the decision to change the process, but it is definitely not passenger friendly,” he said.