How COVID-19 is Changing Airports
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Even before COVID-19 made itself known and virtually halted all air travel, the traveler’s experience at an airport didn’t typically make for pleasant memories. Long lines, crowded terminals, chaotic boarding procedures...you get the picture.
Now, due to current health concerns, the images that come to mind when you imagine flying again probably aren’t peaceful ones. We’ve heard a lot of airlines and airports releasing news updates on how they are going to improve their systems to ensure traveler health, safety and social distancing when it is time to up-and-go again. But what will that look like post COVID? Will our experiences at airports improve or be simply maddening?
We’ve done the research, and here are the changes that we may experience in the future when we take to the skies:
We’ve read a lot about how some airports will resort completely to touch-less technology instead of face-to-face interaction. There are many airports around the world and across the US that have already been using technology like smart tunnels to clear immigration and facial-recognition boarding practices. It has been predicted that transformational innovations of many airports that may have previously taken five years will take as little as five months. This is because air personnel recognize changes must be swiftly made in order to draw travelers in. Airlines, like Delta, have seen success with these touch-less practices in Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and Detroit, and plans to expand are already underway. For the airports that are unable to go touch-less straightaway, we are going to see a lot more plexiglass separating us and the airport staff.
Personal cellular devices may become remote controls at touch screen kiosks and check-ins so that the only device you need to handle is your own, eliminating transfer of bacteria and keeping you safer.
Wait Your Turn...for the Security Line
We all know the drill...arrive at the airport at LEAST 2 hours before boarding time in case the lines at security take an hour or more to navigate. Airports have realized that something has to be done about these lines, because there is no way to manage social distancing the way that they have been run thus far.
What some airports are developing are ways to schedule set time-frames for each passenger to arrive at security checkpoints. This way, you know exactly when to arrive at the airport and which security checkpoint to go to. The hope is that this will ease the heavy influx of passengers at random times, allowing them to monitor how many people are waiting in line at once.
Cleaning, Cleaning and More Cleaning
When’s the last time you got around to cleaning your suitcases? Even if you are one to frequently disinfect your luggage, the airport staff will be sure to clean it again...and again.
You may see a new “tag” on your luggage when you pick it up from baggage claim. Airports have reported that they are going to start marking luggage with “sani-tags” after they are disinfected. New technology (and old technology that is going to be put to work more broadly) is going to be used to sanitize all bags that are checked using UV-light, fog methods and other quick techniques. Overhead bins for carry-on luggage are being disinfected as well.
But...your bags may not be the only thing being disinfected while in airport transit…
An airport in Hong Kong is testing a touchless disinfectant tube for passengers. It is said to disinfect from head to toe in a 40 second sterilization process! Depending on where you travel, you may experience it more and more.
Doctor’s Office or Airport?
Many airports around the world have been testing different ways to screen passengers before they enter the airport. Some are taking temperatures, only allowing those with normalized levels to enter. An airport in Hong Kong has been reported in gathering deep-throat saliva samples that take up to 8 hours to process. Pictures have been released of passengers sitting in social distance while waiting for their tests to clear!
While it is uncertain whether US airports will have to face such measures as saliva samples, it has been made clear that they are working on designing techniques to limit sick passengers from entering the terminals and boarding flights. Rapid result COVID-19 tests are currently in the works and will soon be patented for the US, EU, and Germany.
Bring Your Own Snacks!
Most airports have temporarily closed most of their restaurants and non-essential shopping outlets. This means that your options for snack, food and beverage purchases will be limited (and take WAY longer to acquire) during your airport visit.
Something you can already expect if you board a flight now are limited food and beverage services. In efforts to limit bacteria transfer, many airlines are only serving packaged snacks and closed drink bottles and cans. Some airlines have put a hold on their food and beverage services altogether.
That being said, we definitely suggest that you bring your own snacks if you enjoy a bite while in flight! Just avoid bringing liquids, obviously...
These are (just a few) changes that you may experience at your next airport visit. As travel opens up again, there really is no telling whether travelers will flock to board their next flight or stay away cautiously.
As these changes begin to roll out at our local airports and those around the world, the best thing that we can do is remain calm, patient, knowledgeable, and considerate for the health of those around us! While some of these updates may seem a bit overwhelming and trying, we know that the #1 goal is traveler safety.
If you want to do more reading, here are some of the articles that we gathered our research from:
CNBC: Five Ways the Pandemic may Change the Airports for the Better
CNTraveler: How Airports will Change After COVID-19
Travel and Leisure: How Airports will Change After CoronaVirus, According to Experts