There are a lot of questions about whether travel — or life, for that matter — will ever return to normal?
Is this temporary, or…?
While sheltering in place is hopefully temporary, I know a lot of us wonder if things will eventually return to normal, or if this is simply the start of a new era.
Just as 9/11 changed lots of aspects of aviation (from security screening, to liquids restrictions, to protecting cockpits, to being asked silly questions at check-in), will this change aspects of aviation in the long run as well? Will social distancing become the new normal? Will people be more concerned about germs when flying?
Will coronavirus be an ongoing part of our world that we’ll just eventually have better testing and a vaccine for? Will our airport check-in experience eventually include a COVID-19 test?
Etihad’s innovative new check-in kiosks
Etihad Airways is trialing new check-in kiosks at their Abu Dhabi hub, starting at the end of April, and also throughout May 2020. They will initially use volunteers, and as flights continue to resume, outbound passengers.
What makes Etihad’s new check-in kiosks special? They’re trialing new technology that will be able to identify travelers with medical conditions, potentially including the early stages of COVID-19.
Etihad is the first airline to trial this technology, which will be able to monitor the temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate of any person using the machine. This concept could be extended to other airport touch points, from information kiosks, to bag drop facilities, to security checkpoints, to immigration gates.
This is being done in partnership with Australian company Elenium Automation. The system will automatically suspend self-service check-in or bag drop if a passenger’s vital signs indicate potential symptoms of illness. It will then lead to either a teleconference, or alert staff on site, who can make further assessments about the traveler’s ability to fly.
Elenium is also working with Amazon Web Services to develop hands free technology, so that people can check-in through voice recognition and more.
In general I’d love to see less need to touch things at airports. For example, I’m disgusted every time I have to be fingerprinted when entering a country, when they clearly never clean the fingerprint scanner.
At the same time, I’m not sure voice recognition is a great alternative — you’ll then be loudly saying your name, passport number, confirmation number, etc., for those around you to hear, which seems like it could create all kinds of new problems.
I don’t think travel will ever be exactly the same as it was before. Just as 9/11 was a defining moment for global aviation, I do think this will also change some big-picture things in the industry.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of health screening added to the check-in experience long term, and I think Etihad’s check-in kiosk concept is a step in that direction.
If nothing else, I hope that all of this leads to airports and airplanes just being cleaner places.
To what extent do you think we’ll see long-term changes to aviation in terms of health, cleanliness, etc.? Is this all short-term, or are there some things being picked up here that will stick?