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Innovative Ways Airports and Airlines Are Handling COVID-19 Pandemic

Flying in the Time of Coronavirus

Airports and airlines have embraced the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic by requiring face masks for all employees and travelers, leaving middle seats open in some cases, putting up plexiglass barriers for an added level of protection during human to human interactions and encouraging physical distancing with easy-to-see signage and floor markers. However, the industry hasn't stopped there, with many airports and airlines looking to the latest technology to develop more innovative ways to help further ensure the health and safety of the traveling public in the time of coronavirus.

Cleaning an aircraft interior in the COVID-19 era.
PHOTO: Cleaning an aircraft interior in the COVID-19 era. (Photo via iStock/Getty Images/izusek)
Enhanced Cleanliness Onboard

One of the airline industry's first responses to the pandemic back in March was to enhance onboard cleaning procedures in between flights. For example, United Airlines recently began applying an antimicrobial coating to seats, tray tables, armrests, overhead bins, lavatories and crew stations while Delta Air Lines became the first U.S. airline to begin installing hand sanitizer stations onboard each of its aircraft.

People traveling through security to the gates of Denver International Airport
PHOTO: People traveling through security to the gates of Denver International Airport. (photo via ivanastar/iStock Unreleased)

Scheduled Screening Times

Denver International Airport is the first to partner with the VeriFLY app, which allows travelers to reserve a 15-minute window for security screening to limit contact and congestion before they board a socially distant train car to their concourse. The new airport experience could be huge for travelers at higher risk to be severely affected by the coronavirus.

Self-driving floor scrubbers at Pittsburgh International Airport
PHOTO: Self-driving floor scrubbers at Pittsburgh International Airport. (photo courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport - Beth Hollerich)

UV Light and Sanitizing Machines

Some airports, including Pittsburgh International Airport, are embracing ultraviolet light technology to disinfect floors and high-touch surfaces that may carry potentially harmful microbes. Meanwhile, Hong Kong International Airport has tested full-body sanitizing machines capable of disinfecting travelers in under one minute.

The UV wand can disinfect high touch surfaces
PHOTO: The UV wand can disinfect high touch surfaces. (photo by Marian Lockhart/Boeing)

UV Disinfection Onboard

Boeing is working with Healthe Inc. to develop a new ultraviolet (UV) wand that uses 222-nanometer UVC light to effectively inactivate pathogens. The new device, which is expected to be made available to airlines in late-fall, allows users to pass UV light over high-touch surfaces, sanitizing everywhere the light reaches.

A man undergoing a COVID-19 test
PHOTO: A man undergoing a COVID-19 test. (photo via zoranm/E+)

Pre-Travel Testing

Tampa International Airport is the first in the United States to pilot COVID-19 testing for all passengers. Ticketed travelers arriving or departing TPA can undergo an onsite PCR (nasal swab) test for $125 or a rapid antigen test for $57 throughout the month of October. At the same time, American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are among those carriers launching pre-flight COVID-19 testing programs that would allow passengers to secure a negative result prior to arriving in their destination, which in some cases could mean bypassing a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

LAX Order Now
PHOTO: LAX Order Now allows guests to search, browse and order food and beverages from dozens of restaurants across the airport. (photo courtesy of LAX)

Contactless Ordering, Pick-Up

Airports are also embracing technology that improves the passenger experience without sacrificing health and safety such as LAX Order Now, which allows travelers to order food and beverage from dozens of restaurants throughout the airport and pick it up from a designated area with no physical contact.

Spirit Airlines' automated self-bag drop unit equipped with biometric photo-matching
PHOTO: Spirit Airlines' automated self-bag drop unit equipped with biometric photo-matching. (photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

Biometric Technologies

Spirit Airlines recently unveiled cutting-edge ticket lobbies in New York City and Chicago, becoming the first to make biometric check-in assistance available to domestic customers and the first to attempt to combine it with automated self-bag drop capabilities that limit face-to-face interactions and save travelers time.

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