Paine Field Introduces Body Temperature Check

Filed Under: Travel

Paine Field in Everett, Washington, has become the first commercial US airport to introduce temperature checks for all passengers.

Paine Field body temperature checks

This week Paine Field has introduced a mandatory body temperature check for all passengers departing from the airport.

Before entering the TSA checkpoint, all passengers will be screened by a thermal camera that reads body temperature. Passengers flagged as having a high temperature will be offered secondary screening, and if fever is confirmed, the passenger and the airline will determine their ability to travel.

The airport is using the Elevated Body Temperature Detection System to perform these checks, as it’s non-invasive, non-contact technology. This is similar to the technology that has been used at many airports in Asia for years. The system was developed by Athena Security.

As Brett Smith, the CEO of Propellor Airports (which runs the Paine Field terminal) explains:

“During this difficult time, the addition of Athena’s Elevated Body Temperature Detection System is a vital step to ensure the health and safety of our passengers, airline partners and staff.

Since opening, we have been committed to staying on the forefront of trends and innovations to provide the best possible experience to our passengers, and we’re proud to be the first U.S. passenger terminal to roll out this type of technology. The use of this system will allow us to maintain the seamless, safe and modern travel experience our customers have come to expect.”

This makes sense, but…

It seems to me like this is a case of “something is better than nothing,” which is to say that this alone won’t make it safe for people to travel again, though it’s a step in the right direction. This technology has been used at airports all over the world (and in particular in Asia) for years, so it seems overdue that we’re finally seeing it in the US.

I do have a few thoughts/questions:

  • Ideally shouldn’t the temperature screening actually happen as people enter the terminal, since even before going through security people often don’t social distance?
  • Taking temperatures is great, but what exactly are they doing with this information? If someone does have a fever then the airline and passenger together will decide what should happen? What does that process look like?
  • Paine Field is a comparatively small airport, so could this be executed as easily at much bigger airports?

Bottom line

Paine Field has now introduced body temperature checks, which seems like a move in the right direction. I suspect this could be part of the new normal, along with face masks (at least for the time being).

The only thing I’m confused about is what happens if someone does actually have a high temperature. I’m not sure what exactly a collaborative process looks like between a passengers and airline in making a determination…

  1. Given the small percentage of people that get fevers (or symptoms at all for that matter), this sort of thing just seems like “virus theatre”.

  2. My body temperature when I’m not sick is about 96.8. I always thought I was an outlier, but have been reading recently that the 98.6 standard is actually much higher than reality; the average is actually 97.5. That said, what constitutes a fever with these sensors? One person’s fever is another’s normal temp.

  3. Unfortunately this will just lead to people preventively consuming unhealthy high doses of Paracetamol to not risk their trip. Meanwhile they are still spreading the Virus as before.

  4. What about folks that run fevers due to chronic conditions. My SO has an autoimmune disorder. Her temperature runs between 97-101 depending on the interplay between inflammation and medication. Also, I’ve noticed I can get feverish on short sleep, drinking more than normal, jet lag… is everyone going to be popping acetomeniphen to pass screening?

  5. @Andrew
    These people should be getting the medical treatment for their condition instead of flying around.

  6. @Max – What medical treatment for an autoimmune disease do you believe is going to prevent them from flying? Since autoimmune diseases are typically something you have for life, that person just isn’t going to fly again ever? The point @Andrew was making is that not everyone that has a fever has a communicable disease. Most do certainly, but the question is, what’s the process for those that don’t? Especially if they can document that’s a ‘normal’ (i.e. the fever doesn’t point to a communicable disease) situation for them.

  7. I mean, Asian airports have been doing this for years, usually upon arrival prior to immigration. I really don’t see an issue with it.

    @Mike – I’d assume, like with almost any other ailment that might cause problems with travel, a doctor’s note and proper documentation outlining your condition would suffice. I have a metal plate with seven screws in my wrist, and always carry a doctors note with me incase I set off a metal detector, even though its never happened. I also carry my documentation for prescribed medication to Japan when needed, because they are strict with what can be brought in. The paranoia about this is asinine.

  8. @Chris: Exactly what I’m thinking. My normal is around 96F so for me a fever is 97F or more. The human body is anything but textbook or standard.

  9. Seems like the eventual plan would be: “Excuse me, you seem to have a fever, please step aside and wait here for a moment. If you are aware of this fever and have documentation, get it out to show us now. In the meantime, this medic will come by to give you a rapid coronavirus and flu test, which will take about 20 minutes and require you to wait in this room. If you don’t consent to this test, you’re free to leave the airport now with this mask on.”

    Now; that sounds kind of creepy to me, but it’s my best guess at how this will eventually go down.

  10. Hmmm … so what happens if you have to run (e.g. because of being late)? Obviously someone doing exercise (e.g. running) will have higher body temperature …

  11. Lack of fever means nothing as far as Covid-19 is concerned, 80+% of people are asymptomatic. Having a fever is not proof of Covid-19, there are thousands of non-transmittable reasons for elevated temperature. This will, for sure, become fever theater. Solution – buy stock in the manufacturers of acetaminophen (Tylenol) because everyone will be popping it a few hours before they go to the airport if temperature checks becomes the standard.

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