What to expect from airports during the pandemic

As lockdown measures around the world start to ease, people are once again looking to air travel to salvage last minute summer holidays, visit family abroad or go on business trips.

Yet as airports start to see the number of passengers passing through them pick up, there are growing concerns of a ‘second spike’ in infections among governments and healthcare officials. As such, many are looking to airports to help track signs of infection and act on the frontline against another wave of the virus.

Due to this, if you’re travelling by air in the next few months, expect some changes to the ‘usual’ flying experience. We look at some of those here.

Check whether you need a mask

Many airports have policies in place designed to stop the spread of the virus. In accordance with advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and in line with the recommendation of various governments, many airports are asking passengers to wear a face covering while in terminal buildings and at the gate when boarding the aircraft. The same is true for some airlines too, who say that the wearing of a face mask is mandatory during the duration of the flight.

Before heading to the airport, it’s therefore important that you check on its website, as well as any online guidance from your air carrier, what their rules around wearing masks are. In some cases, airlines can exercise the right to remove you from the flight if you don’t follow their guidance.

Leaving extra time

Similarly, airports have put in a series of other measures that may require a little more time to traverse. Some airports, for example, have implemented one way systems to help passengers maintain social distancing. Other airports have started testing passengers at the border to help track and contain the spread of the virus. Some airports are even starting to use the IoT to spot when passengers have anomalously high temperatures, which might be a sign of infection.

There are even suggestions that airports could implement technology-driven solutions to help overcrowding in certain parts of the airport – such as using automated barriers to only let passengers through to the next part of the terminal once occupancy levels in that area have dropped. Or give travellers a personalised buzzer that notifies them if they have spent too much time near to another passenger.

What this all suggests is that while you might expect airports to be emptier at the moment, giving you more of a free run through the terminal, the number of checks needed to take place could extend your travel time in the lead up to take off.

Retail therapy?

It’s also worth checking whether the airport you’re departing from has the same range of shops that you’ve come to expect from the typical flying experience. While airport stores are slowly opening back up, this isn’t happening universally yet – as many shops will need to re-structure to create more space for social distancing. It’s worth noting that it’s preferred to use contactless payments in shops to reduce physical contact. So do bear these things in mind before making your way to the airport, as they could have an impact on what you eat and any potential last-minute retail purchases you may want to make.

Health passports 

As part of this move to get air travel going again, governments, travel industry bodies and flight operators around the world have started working on the introduction of COVID-19 health passes. These passes (also known as vaccine passports) could, in theory, be rolled out as part of a ‘digital ID wallet’ to citizens, helping people to easily prove that they are double vaccinated at airports, or have a recent negative test result, and are therefore safe for travel – helping to reduce the international spread of the virus. These wallets would also act as a catalyst for digitisation in other parts of public and private life, giving citizens quick and safe access to essential services – like emergency welfare. As travel restrictions vary greatly between countries and change often, you should check the relevant rules of the countries you’re travelling between to ensure you have the right papers for your trip. 

The most important thing is that airport regulation is changing all the time so do be sure to check guidance online before you head off for your flight. Want more information on how airports are future proofing themselves? Check out some of our links below: