In the long-term, airports will be exploring more comprehensive passenger wellness screening solutions. There will be additional medical clinics within airports for use by passengers as well as airport and airline employees.
One question is what the TSA (or perhaps a newly formed health agency) will do with people flagged with symptoms? Will they contain the identified passenger or everyone on the flight?
Airports can allocate more space for quarantine areas for people displaying symptoms. But how do they then control their movement out of the airport to another facility or hospital? Federal regulators will need to define nationwide policies and protocols.
Airports will need to make every step of the passenger journey feel safer in terms of infection control. Many already have paperless ticketing, automated doors, restroom motion sensors and doorless restroom entries.
Moving forward, there will be a move toward providing complete automation and touchless technology in ticket lobbies, gate lounges and baggage claim areas. Terminals will have more touchless concessions and self-service kiosks with mobile ordering.
There will also be questions about sanitation when using trains, taxis and ride-share services to come and go from airports. Can they be cleaned and disinfected after each use, as with airplanes?
The TSA could ease congestion in security screening lanes by implementing use of facial recognition and Advance Imaging Technology body scanners that allow passengers to simply walk through without stopping.
Designers will be looking at different ways of planning gate holding areas to give people additional space. This will be more quantified. Even the way seats are assigned by the airlines, as well as IATA standards, could change to support social distancing.
At LaGuardia Airport’s new Terminal B, there are a variety of post-security spaces – whether in the retail marketplace or in the bridge above the aircraft taxi lanes – where people can spread out and walk around as they wait to board their flights.
The new terminal at Salt Lake City International Airport has an expansive retail and foodcourt where passengers can wait. These options give passengers choices, so they don’t have to sit together right outside the gate.
On the horizon
In the midst of this pandemic, it’s impossible to fully predict how coronavirus may alter long-term travel patterns and passenger behaviour. For now, though, airport planners and designers can help our clients develop remedial plans for retrofitting terminals to accommodate these solutions. Going forward, these strategies will be an integral part of the planning and design of all terminal projects.