With the massive slowdown in air travel grounding flights around the world, UAE carrier Etihad Airways has currently suspended all of its flights from its Abu Dhabi base. But when those flights take to the air again, new technology at the airport will screen passengers with medical symptoms including potentially early signs of Covid-19.
The technology produced by the Australian company Elenium Automation which can monitor temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate will be placed at airport check-in, bag drop, security point and immigration gate checkpoints. If it detects any vital sign irregularities, it will suspend the process and switch to a teleconference or alert staff to take on the assessment and management of the travel process.
As Jorg Oppermann, Vice President Hub and Midfield Operations, Etihad Airways, explains: “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.
“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. At Etihad we see this as another step towards ensuring that future viral outbreaks do not have the same devastating effect on the global aviation industry as is currently the case.”
The airline plans to conduct a trial with the monitoring technology at the airport in Abu Dhabi starting at the end of this month and throughout May with volunteers. Assuming all goes well, the technology will be used with outbound passengers whenever flying resumes, a date as yet unknown.