Home News Airports Compete for Worried Flyers With On-Site COVID-19 Testing, TSA Appointments and Cleaning Robots

Airports Compete for Worried Flyers With On-Site COVID-19 Testing, TSA Appointments and Cleaning Robots

Airports Compete for Worried Flyers With On-Site COVID-19 Testing, TSA Appointments and Cleaning Robots

With Alaska AirlinesJetBlueUnited, and other airlines announcing fare sales and new routes for winter, it may feel like air travel is returning to normal.

But after a spike over the Labor Day holiday, the numbers for travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints around the country are still way down compared to this time last year. And with so many countries still enforcing COVID-19-related restrictions, the outlook for international travel looks far from rosy.

Still, airports around the country are working hard to sanitize their facilities. And after a summer of scrambling to enhance cleaning regimes and install hand-sanitizing stations, plexiglass barriers, and other health-focused tools, airports are adopting new strategies to keep passengers safe and instill confidence in travel.

Here are some of the programs you may encounter:

Security checkpoint by appointments

This month, Denver International Airport (DEN) debuted the free, app-powered VeriFLY program, which blends a checkpoint reservation system with a health check. Passengers download the VeriFLY app (an Android version is on the way), complete a health survey 24 hours before their flight. Once at the airport, participants get a touchless temperature check before accessing a dedicated TSA lane. For added social distancing, cleared VeriFLY flyers to ride out to the concourses in a limited-capacity car on the underground train.

More robots and robot-like helpers

Airport employees serving as Travel Well Ambassadors at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) roam the terminals reminding passengers to wear their masks. Softbank Robotics’ direction-giving robot, Pepper, has been reprogrammed to serve as a mask nanny as well.

Intelligent sterilizing robots and robotic machinery designed to quickly and efficiently disinfect public areas and passengers facilities are now deployed at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)Hong Kong International Airport, and, most recently at San Antonio International Airport (SAT), where voters chose SAT-erminator over Zappy, Violet, Alamo, and Texas the preferred name for the new full-time airport employee.

Cleaning up with UV light and a spritz

 In addition to air-cleansing bipolar ionization (BPI) devices installed by companies such as AtmosAir in airport heating and air conditioning systems in Los AngelesCharlotteChicagoSan Francisco, and other cities, an increasing number of airports are using UV and medical-grade UVC light to zap bacteria and viruses on surfaces and, in some cases, people.

London’s Gatwick Airport is installing a Smiths Detection-made system at eight security checkpoint lanes that send each security bin through an enclosed tunnel that uses short-wavelength UV-C light for disinfection.

Bluewater Technologies, a design technology firm in Michigan, has developed a system that uses medical-grade, UV-C light to quickly sanitize airport luggage carts in a few seconds.

And Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) has installed UV-C sterilization units inside some escalator and walkway mechanisms to continuously clean the handrails.

The Toronto Airport also has a new, voluntary disinfection corridor that uses a chemical-free spray to give passengers a quick pre- or post-flight sanitizing spritz.

COVID-19 testing at airports

Temperature checks have gradually become the norm at many airports, though there continues to be debate over who should be responsible for carrying them out. Earlier this month, a new bipartisan Senate bill was introduced that would require the TSA to perform that task.

Elsewhere this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was halting its current screening system for arriving international passengers. Instead of screening for fevers and other COVID-19 symptoms at 15 centralized airports, the CDC’s new protocol “focuses on the continuum of travel and the individual passenger, including pre-departure and post-arrival education, efforts to develop a potential testing framework with international partners, and illness response.”

On Sept. 22, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airline trade group, joined other trade groups such as Airlines for America (A4A)Airport Council International (ACI) World, and Airports Council International-North America in calling for the systematic testing of all international travelers before their flights.

“This should enable governments to safely open borders without quarantine. And it will provide passengers with the certainty that they can travel without having to worry about a last-minute change in government rules that could spoil their plans,” said IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac in a statement.

For now, there are some airports and some pilot programs where passengers can get tested before they fly.

Last week, United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines announced their own COVID-19 testing pilot programs. United is testing it on the system on passengers flying from San Francisco to Hawaii, and Hawaiian is setting up drive-through sites near LAX and SFO. Both will launch on or close to Oct. 15, when Hawaii begins allowing out-of-state visitors to bypass quarantine with a negative test result.

XpresSpa, which has temporarily closed its network of in-airport spas, is developing a network of COVID-19 testing centers at airports. The company now has XpresCheck testing sites at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) Terminal 4 and in Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Terminal B, with plans to expand to six other hub airports around the country.

The medical clinic at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) offers travelers COVID-19 tests by appointment, with results typically returned within 24 to 72 hours, though turnaround time may vary depending on lab demand. YVR and Canadian airline WestJet are also creating a pilot program to offer voluntary preflight COVID-19 testing with fast results to passengers boarding domestic flights, according to the CBC.

And through mid-October, Italian airline Alitalia is operating two of its seven daily Rome-Milan flights as “COVID-Tested,” with only passengers who have tested negative for COVID-19 allowed on the plane. Passengers for these flights who arrive at the airport without a certificate proving they have tested negative for virus 72 hours before boarding can take a free COVID-19 test at the airport and get the results within 30 minutes.

COVID-19-sniffing dogs

Passengers flying out of Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa Airport or Dubai International Airport might also encounter COVID-sniffing dogs. Both airports are running pilot programs to test the canines’ efficacy at detecting the virus.

Passengers who agree to take a free test under the voluntary program in Helsinki do not have direct physical contact with a dog. They are asked to swipe their skin with a wipe, which is then put into a jar and given to a dog waiting in a separate booth, who then sniffs the sample and indicates the test result with the scratch of a paw, a bark, or by lying down. The process takes about a minute and if the result is positive, the passenger is urged to take a standard polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, coronavirus test, to check the dog’s accuracy.

Look for the seal of approval

Airports Council International (ACI) World recently rolled out a global Airport Health Accreditation program designed to restore public confidence in air travel and prove to governments that airports are following international health and safety standards.

The voluntary health and hygiene program requires airports to complete a document containing questions relating to everything from cleaning and disinfection to physical distancing, staff protection, passenger communications, and passenger facilities.

Airports seeking the Airport Health Accreditation must also provide pictures, videos, and explanations to show how they are following international protocols.

In mid-August, Istanbul Airport became the first airport in the world to be accredited through the program. In early September, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) was the first airport in North America to receive the designation.

Now other airports are rushing to get the ACI seal of approval.

Eskalera, a Startup Led by Goldman Sachs’ Former HR Head Has Launched a Diversity and Inclusion Index

Eskalera, a technology startup led by Goldman Sachs former human resources head Dane Holmes, has launched an index to measure corporate diversity and inclusiveness,...

HSBC to Remove 35,000 Jobs Amidst Covid-19 Crises

HSBC Holdings Plc has restarted cutting as many as 35,000 jobs, three months after the coronavirus outbreak forced it to pause a long-awaited overhaul...

Genpact Offers Its Internal Skill Training Program Globally for Everyone

Genpact has announced Adapt and Rise, a role-based online learning platform that leverages Genpact's expertise honed from delivering real-world change for hundreds of clients....

San-Francisco Based Learning Platform Degreed Has Raised $32 Million in New Funding

The upskilling platform, Degreed, has announced $32 million in new funding in direct response to overwhelming demand for better skill insights, talent mobility, and...

Research Shows the Implications of Workplace Layouts on Employee Productivity and Overall Performance

As some workplaces prepare for the gradual return of employees and overhaul office layouts and seating plans, research has shown this could also have...

Employee Concierge ‘Back Technologies’ Integrates Automation Into Internal HR and Other Support Tasks

Companies are under increasing pressure to automate workflows and digitally service their employees, particularly in light of trends toward remote work. It takes an...

HR Strategies to Help Your Business Navigate the New ‘Normal’

No business is immune to the massive changes resulting from the health crisis. Organizations have proven themselves to be agile, and employees have demonstrated...

The Importance Of Diversity And Inclusion In HR, Hiring, Talent Management: Thoughts From A Top Expert

Michael C. Hyter is one of today’s best-known experts on inclusion and diversity and the author of The Power of Choice: Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career and The...

HR Expert Highlights Actionable Steps to ‘Make Real Change’ Against Racism in Your Workplace

Kyra Leigh Sutton, Ph.D., is a faculty member at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, where she teaches human resources courses...

Adidas Employees Want Company to Investigate HR Chief for Response to Racial Issues

A group of Adidas employees from around the globe is asking the company to investigate its chief human resources officer, as part of a...