Etihad to Test Airport Tech to Identify Medically At-Risk Travelers

Etihad Airways will partner with Australian company Elenium Automation to trial new technology that allows self-service devices at airports to be used to help identify travelers with medical conditions, potentially including the early stages of COVID-19. Etihad will be the first airline to trial the technology, which can monitor the temperature, heart rate and the respiratory rate of any person using an airport touchpoint, such as a check-in or information kiosk, a bag drop facility, a security point or immigration gate.

The Elenium system will automatically suspend the self-service check-in or bag drop process if a passenger’s vital signs indicate potential symptoms of illness. It will then divert to a teleconference or alert qualified staff on site, who can make further assessments and manage travelers as appropriate. It will screen each person, including all members of the same booking.

In partnership with Amazon Web Services, Elenium has also developed “hands-free” technologies that enable touchless use of self-service devices through voice recognition, further minimizing the potential of any viral or bacterial transmission. 

Etihad will initially trial the monitoring technology at its hub airport in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, at the end of April and throughout May 2020, initially with a range of volunteers, and, as flights resume, outbound passengers. 

Jorg Oppermann, vice president hub and midfield operations, Etihad Airways, said in a written release, “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.”

While the technology should help with the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Oppermann adds it will continue to be used in the future, as it could help assess a passenger’s suitability to travel, thus minimizing disruptions.

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