Right here’s how airports are attempting to make flying really feel protected throughout the pandemic

After a fearful flight to Texas for a business trip, Orange County artist Patrice Miller vowed to stay away from airports and airlines for the foreseeable future.

She was nervous to see passengers on their flight from John Wayne Airport to McAllen International Airport sitting with no physical distance, many refusing to wear masks.

But she said she was most upset about her hour-long layover at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where travelers gathered around restaurants and huddled in retail stores, about half of which were not wearing masks.

“I’m going to another conference next week, but I’m driving,” Miller said.

Airport operators across the country say this passenger fear helped reduce demand for air travel by nearly 65% ​​year over year. In response, they have made efforts to revamp the way Americans fly in hopes of reducing the risk of the coronavirus spreading and encouraging travelers to fly to the skies again in pre-pandemic numbers.

Airport executives have already come up with a handful of ideas for overhauling the flight experience, including performing airport health checks, encouraging passengers to reserve time for security screening to reduce the crowd, and using technology to reduce the need for Dramatically Reduce Faces For Travelers – Contact With Airline Gate Agents.

“It all comes down to making the traveling public feel safe and implementing tested solutions that make a meaningful difference to the health of the traveling public,” said Carter Morris, executive vice president of American Assn. of Airport Executives, representing nearly 875 airports in the US

The trading group has teamed up with 12 of the country’s largest airports and several technology and engineering firms to form the Airport Consortium on Consumer Trust Program, which aims to restore passenger confidence in commercial air travel through the use of new technologies and procedures.

Instead of waiting for the federal government to recommend changes to the country’s airports, members of the consortium said they had decided to take the initiative. The kickoff meeting for the group took place on October 30th.

Although some members of the consortium are optimistic that some ideas can be adopted within weeks or months, major hurdles remain, e.g. B. The collaboration of the various state, federal and local government agencies involved in the operation, regulation and financing of the country’s largest airports.

“It’s primarily a coordination problem,” said Regine Weston, airport planner at Arup, an engineering firm and a member of the consortium.

Airport executives struggling with a sharp decline in sales hope that many of their airport terminal modernization ideas can be funded through federal grants.

“We all know we need to invest in solutions to bring passengers back and get them to travel,” said Justin Erbacci, managing director of Los Angeles International Airport, who has taken on a leading role in the consortium.

The group has already come up with several ideas to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in airports. Some of these are being tested in LAX, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, and other locations. Below is a look at what airports might look like between now and the end of the pandemic – and maybe beyond.

Airlifts

One idea is to create what is known as an airlift between international destinations, where passengers flying between them will be asked to get tested or have other health tests for COVID-19 symptoms. The consortium members hope that preflight testing and controls can reduce the risk of the virus spreading across borders and reinvigorate international demand for travel.

However, health officials have found that preflight testing has limitations, as some travelers can run negative tests shortly after being infected and before the virus can multiply.

United Airlines began offering free COVID-19 tests in the airport terminal to passengers flying from Newark-Liberty International Airport to London’s Heathrow Airport in November. The pilot program should show that travelers are willing to conduct such tests before a flight. United Airlines officials hope the efforts will convince the UK to airlift the two cities, exempting passengers with negative test results from the UK’s 14-day quarantine requirement.

In November, LAX started preliminary test locations at three terminals as a preliminary stage for the installation of a coronavirus test facility at the airport in December. The on-site laboratory, which is to be operated from converted freight containers, can produce results in around two hours. Passengers who receive negative test results can then be allowed to fly to locations that require testing prior to entering, such as Hawaii.

“I think it will be a matter of time whether international airlifts are in place and passed by governments so that people can travel,” said Erbacci.

LAX has also tested thermal cameras at the Tom Bradley International Terminal to detect passengers with high body temperatures, a common symptom of COVID-19. Members of the consortium said such cameras should be installed at all major airports to detect infected travelers.

Temperature tests aren’t a panacea: Health experts say people can spread the virus while showing few or no symptoms.

Virtual queue

To avoid the crowds and long lines that can increase the risk of exposure to the virus, consortium members want to convince travelers to use a smartphone app to book an arrival time at the airport and log in to the security checkpoints and a time when to arrive at the gate. The planning system, which has not yet been implemented, is intended to improve the flow of passengers through the lines of the Transportation Security Administration and other bottlenecks.

Passengers could also reserve seats in front of their gates. Travelers making such reservations can wait for their flights in seats that are separated from other passengers or separated by a barrier, Weston said.

“It depends on technology and smart design,” she said.

Improved ventilation systems

Members of the consortium also say airports can reduce the risk of virus spreading by increasing airflow in terminals and upgrading existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to flow air under ultraviolet light to clear viruses out of the Kill air.

Paula J. Olsiewski, indoor climate expert and biochemist at the nonprofit Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, agrees that such changes, coupled with strict mask-wearing enforcement, can make a difference.

She noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization recommend increased ventilation of buildings.

“Most HVAC systems can be adjusted to increase the amount of outside air entering the facility and decrease or eliminate the amount of air being circulated,” said Olsiewski.

Contactless and self-service systems

Facial recognition technologies that have already been tested to confirm the identity of international travelers should also be used on domestic travelers to reduce the need for travelers to come into close contact with security officers or airline employees to determine their identity or boarding status Confirm, said Gary McDonald, president of Materna Americas, a technology and software company and a member of the consortium.

If airlines and government agencies share data on who is flying, airports could create a facial recognition system that allows travelers to pass through the airport without stopping, he said.

“They can have the cameras look at you, check if it’s you, a gate opens and you go to your plane,” he said. “We’re not talking about technology 20 years away. It is here.”

Kiosks that issue boarding passes and spit baggage tags can be wirelessly connected to a passenger’s smartphone so that travelers can operate them from their smartphone screens. That would eliminate the need to touch the kiosks, McDonald said.

A dozen hands-free check-in machines were tested at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal in September during a 30-day test phase.

At O’Hare, Spirit Airlines installed a system that enables air travelers to drop off their luggage without coming into contact with an airline employee.

Members of the consortium said the success of the group’s efforts depends on the collaboration of many private and public actors.

“We are seeing many airports are considering all of the same things to do with this COVID crisis,” said Erbacci, who oversees one of the busiest airports in the country. “Instead of going other ways, it made sense to identify innovations together that could help us with this.”

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