Health

Airport amenity of the week

It is definitely a sign of the times. And the airport amenity of the week.

To help passengers and employees comply with the face mask covering requirement at Denver International (DEN), the airport now has two vending machines that sell face masks as well as sanitizing wipes.

The vending machines are stocked with:

  • Two-pack disposable mask with one gel sanitizer packet and two single-use alcohol towelettes: $6/package
  • Two-pack KN95 mask with one gel sanitizer packet and two single-use alcohol towelettes: $12/package
  • 10-pack full-sheet sanitizing wipes: $4.25/package

Travelers will find the vending machines at the North end of Level 6 near the restrooms on the west side and on the South end of Level 5 around the corner from Boulder Beer Tap House on the west side.

Several DEN airport shops are now selling face masks and other hygiene items as well.

DEN isn’t the first airport in the United States to install a vending machine stocked with masks and sanitizing items.

That title goes to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS), which installed two such machines in mid-May.

No doubt these machines will soon pop up at airport everywhere.

Travel tidbits from airports and airlines

Soon, maybe not very soon, but soon, you will go to an airport and board a plane.

In the meantime, here are some newsy tidbits from that world.

Alaska Airlines is staying active. And a bit fishy

You may be sitting around and not getting many frequent flyer miles from flying.

But Alaska Airlines has a fun campaign that will award you some bonus miles for staying active.

The airline is buddying up with fitness app Strava to give away 250,000 miles to Mileage Plan members as part of the Miles on the Ground Challenge.

Get the app, do 360 minutes physical activity by May 30, 2020, and you will qualify to enter a drawing to win up to 100,000 miles.

Alaska Airlines also did a nice pivot with the annual fly-in of the first Copper River salmon from Alaska to Seattle.

Instead of heading to area restaurants, part of the first planeload of copper river salmon became meals for health care workers. The rest was used for a salmon dinner fundraiser that generated enough money to buy 77,000 meals for people in the community.

COVID-19 testing at airports

There is a lot of chatter about doing thermal cameras and temperature checks at airport security checkpoints and boarding gates.

But that is not a foolproof method of determining if a passenger has a case of COVID-19.

So, several airports and airlines are going beyond that and requiring passengers to either have proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test result or take a test on the spot to avoid quarantine.

In mid-April, Dubai-based Emirates began requiring passengers departing Dubai International Airport to underdo rapid COVID-19 blood tests, with results in 10 minutes.

Testing at Vienna Airport

Anyone traveling to Austria right now is required to either have a recent medical certificate showing they are negative for COVID-19 or go into a 14-day quarantine.

For arriving passengers without a medical certificate but with a residence in Austria and a valid resident permit, Vienna International Airport (VIE) is offering the opportunity to get tested for COVID-19 on the spot.

The tests are not free. They cost EUR 190 (about $207), but the results come back in three to six hours and, if negative, allow the passenger to skip the quarantine.

All other arriving passengers without a health certificate are sent immediately to quarantine, according to the airport, and “must arrange for themselves to be tested by a laboratory at the quarantine location, which may involve longer waiting times.”

Iceland planning on the spot COVID-19 tests at KEF Airport

The government of Iceland expects to begin welcoming back international flight no later than June 15. And when it does, the plan is to give travelers the option of getting testing for COVID-19 on arrival at Keflavik Airport (KEF) to avoid a two-week quarantine.

Details are still being worked out on how that will play out.

Quito Airport cueing up it COVID-19 testing too

Quito International Airport (UIO) expects commercial flights to resume on June 1.

But it already has stations installed for rapid COVID-19 testing of passengers.

10 temporary testing stations are set up now and were first used on May 18 to test passengers on a charter Aeromexico flight from Mexico City carrying 120 repatriating passengers.

Sea-Tac Airport plans passenger temperature checks

The aviation industry, government agencies, and technology companies are scrambling to find a way to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic so that travelers will be safe in airports and in the sky.

Already, masks, hand sanitizing stations, and hyper-vigilant cleaning protocols have become standard.

And now temperature checks are being added to the list.

Airports, airlines and industry organizations are discussing how to make this happen on a national level.

But the Port of Seattle Commission doesn’t want to wait.

On Wednesday the commission told its staff to work up a plan, by June 9, for rolling out temperature screenings at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

The priority will be on screening arriving international passengers. And with this directive, SEA believes it is the first large U.S. airport to begin working on a formal plan for temperature checks and health screening.

Port of Seattle commissioners acknowledge that with temperature screening will come questions. Mostly about passenger privacy and the fact that temperature checks won’t catch even a majority of virus carriers.

“No single measure is sufficient to slow the spread of coronavirus, and each comes with additional costs and inconvenience. However, given the gravity of the virus, and the impact it has had on our region’s well-being, the benefits of these measures outweigh the costs,” Port of Seattle commissioners said in a statement.

Airports upping their safety act with helmets and more

What are airports up to now?

If you’re heading to an airport now or sometime in the future, the new normal is going to be, well, different.

Masks for everyone, please.

As more and more airlines now require each employee and passenger to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or cloth, airports from Seattle to Singapore are adding that requirement to anyone entering the terminals.

Temperature checks may become the new normal.

Airports in Asia have been scanning travelers’ temperatures for quite some time.

Now Fiumicino Airport in Rome is using ‘smart helmets’ to check the temperature of passengers.

The device is worn by airport workers and allows them to check and measure the body temperature of passengers at a distance.

Frontier Airlines, which stepped back from charging an extra fee to keep middle seats free, will begin pre-boarding temperature screenings for passengers on June 1.

Customers will be screened via touchless thermometers prior to boarding.

If the temperature reading is 100.4 degrees or higher, they will be given time to rest and, if the flight departure time allows, get another temperature check.

“If the second check is 100.4 degrees or higher, a Frontier gate agent will explain to the customer that they will not be flying that day for the health and safety of others,” the airline said in its statement. Any passenger with a 100.4 degrees or higher fever will be offered the option to rebook travel on a later date or make other arrangements.

And don’t be surprised if in the not-too-distant future TSA officers scan you for a fever at the same time they’re looking through your stuff.

What do you think of these moves? Will it make you feel safer when you fly?

Airports ready for the return of travelers

Airports are empty. And hurting.

Airports Council International now estimates a drop of more than 4.6 billion passengers globally for all of 2020.

The airport trade group also estimates that total airport revenues worldwide will drop by more than $97 billion for 2020.

Still, airports are making plans for welcoming back travelers.

Orlando International Airport (MCO) says passengers will see new social distancing signs and markers through the airport terminal. Acrylic protective screens are being installed at ticket counters and at retail food and outlets as well. Cleaning crews are also out in force. And passengers are being urged to wear face masks in the airport.

Tampa International Airport (TPA) is also getting ready.

TPA rolled out a plan that includes, among other things, wider security lanes and recompose areas, and plastic shields in high traffic areas.

The airport is also blocking some seats in gate areas and only allowing ticketed passengers in the terminal.

And at Pittsburgh International Airport, robots are moving in.

Courtesy PIT Airport


Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has joined other airports around the world in adding robotic cleaners to its maintenance crew.

The airport’s new germ-killing robot uses UV light to eliminate microbes in high-traffic areas, increasing the cleanliness of the airport.

Here’s the robotic scrubber in action.