Air travelers say they’re shocked by the bare-bones screening procedures greeting them at American airports amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I said I was coming from Vietnam via Tokyo and [the customs agent] said ‘welcome back’ and that was it,” Aneel Makhani, 38, a marketing professional from Brooklyn who landed at New York’s Kennedy Airport on Sunday told The Post.
He said the procedure upon arrival in Vietnam on March 10 was strikingly different.
“They had this whole process,” he said, involving multiple layers of questioning about past travel and symptoms. “I expected at minimum something like that [here], to fill out a form and to have to talk to somebody specifically about [the virus].”
On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said at a press briefing that Americans coming in from abroad are “screened when they come home through a series of airports.”
Current CDC protocol, however, only specifies health screenings for people coming in from countries with severe, community-spread outbreaks.
For everyone else, “they’re not doing anything,” said Maria Guerrera, 65, who flew in from the Dominican Republic to JFK over the weekend.
“We checked ourselves on the machine and went to immigration and nothing about the virus,” Geurrera said.
Even some travelers from “Level Three” countries designated by the CDC as sites of “widespread ongoing spread” of the virus reported that they received minimal screening stateside.
Gabriel Katzman traveled to Malaysia, Thailand and Tokyo — all level three countries — before landing in Dallas on Sunday afternoon.
He said authorities in Thailand took his temperature before he boarded in both Chiang Mai and Bangkok. After leaving Bangkok, he had a 90-minute layover in Tokyo, but wasn’t checked before getting his flight back to the US.
US border agents only asked if he had traveled to mainland China, Iran or Europe.
“I took a lot of caution and care — washing my hands a lot, trying to wear a mask when I was around other people,” said Katzman, 27, of Silver Spring, Maryland.
The process is almost working on an honor system. I essentially have to trust that other people are taking the same level of care as I am.”
Another traveler, who flew into New York, also from Thailand via Japan, said she was given a form on the flight from Tokyo asking her about her travel history, with a “questions for screener” section to be filled out when she landed.
But when she arrived at JFK on Saturday, no one ever asked her for it — and she still has the document with the “questions for screener” blank.
“I got in my taxi and was like, ‘Oh why do I still have this form?” said the Manhattan resident, who asked to remain anonymous. “I had it in my hand with my passport the whole time.”
The CDC did not immediately return a request for comment.