Airline Testing Airport Kiosks to Identify Travelers With Medical Conditions

Etihad Airways is partnering with Australia-based Elenium Automation to trial new self-service devices at airports used to identify travelers with medical conditions.

The airline said that the new technology—which can monitor the temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate of anyone using an airport touchpoint like a check-in kiosk, bag drop facility or a security gate—could potentially spot the early stages of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Elenium system is designed to automatically suspend the self-service check-in or bag drop process if a passenger’s vital signs indicate potential symptoms of illness. At that point, the system will divert to a teleconference or alert qualified staff on-site for further assessment.

The initial trial is scheduled to take place at Abu Dhabi International Airport from late-April through May with a range of volunteers. The new technology will eventually be tested on outbound passengers when flights resume.

“This technology is not designed or intended to diagnose medical conditions. It is an early warning indicator which will help to identify people with general symptoms, so that they can be further assessed by medical experts, potentially preventing the spread of some conditions to others preparing to board flights to multiple destinations,” said Jorg Oppermann, Etihad Airways Vice President Hub and Midfield Operations, in a statement.

“It has long been the case that aircraft, with their highly sophisticated air-recycling systems and standards of hygiene, are not the transmission vehicle for illnesses. We are testing this technology because we believe it will not only help in the current COVID-19 outbreak but also into the future, with assessing a passenger’s suitability to travel and thus minimizing disruptions.”

“The system would screen every individual, including multiple people on the same booking. The technology can also be retrofitted into any airport kiosk or bag drop or installed as a desktop system at a passenger processing point such as an immigration desk,” added Aaron Hornlimann, CEO and Co-Founder of Elenium Automation. “We believe the introduction of touchless self-service and automated health screening will encourage passengers to return to travel sooner.”

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