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Touchless airports a reality

Touchless airports a reality Creates opportunities and a way for security pros to pivot

YARMOUTH, Maine—It’s no secret that COVID-19 essentially halted air travel: the sky quiet from grounded planes; airport terminals eerily silent and empty; travel industry furloughs and job loss. From Jan. to present date, 7.5 million flights have been cancelled; demand for air travel has decreased 54 percent and total losses for the air travel industry estimated for this year are predicted at $84.3 billion, according to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA). While this is the reality about six months into the pandemic, the world is beginning to look forward to a time of getting back into the open skies and adding frequent flier miles for work and pleasure, with the caveat of safety.

The way people interpret and process the environment surrounding them at any given moment translates into feelings, whether that be fear, safety, happiness, anger, etc. which further becomes their reality. Honing in on safety and to help passengers not only feel safe but be safe, airports are embracing the “touchless” theme when it comes to engaging during the air travel process. To accomplish this, a variety of technologies are needed, which translates into opportunities for security professionals to work with airport end-users to choose and deploy the best technology to achieve their touchless goals. 

Here’s what some of the busiest airports around the world are doing to ensure a touchless/contactless experience for air travelers, giving security professionals a glimpse into this very possible lucrative market: 

Avalon Airport, Australia 

  • Implemented a check-in kiosk that allows travelers to interact via head movements; measures vital signs; and scan passports from a distance.Â


Bangalore International Airport, India


Changi Airport, Singapore

  • Automated kiosks with infrared proximity sensors that detect the motion of fingers as passengers simply point to the options without actually touching the display to check in and drop off luggage;
  • Disinfectant-spraying, cleaning robots;Â
  • Use of ultraviolet-C light technology to sterilize escalator handrails;Â
  • No-touch elevator buttons using same infrared technology as check-in kiosks;Â
  • Use of face and eye (iris) biometrics for contactless clearance at immigration;Â
  • Lanes coated with antimicrobial disinfectant keeping surfaces pathogen-free for up to three months; and
  • Bathrooms: touch-free toilets with flushing sensors; hands-free soap dispensers and faucets.


Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, Texas

  • Self-check-in for luggage;Â
  • Restrooms are on track to be entirely touchless by the end of this month with hands-free sinks, soap, flushing toilets and paper towel dispensers with sensors to alert airport workers when supplies are low;Â
  • Biometric boarding, using the face as the boarding pass;Â
  • Use of ultraviolet technology to kill germs before they circulate through HVAC systems;Â
  • Deployment of electrostatic foggers;Â
  • Hired a team of 150 people to circulate through terminals to physically sanitize high-touch areas; and
  • Use of touchless technology for employee temperature checks.


Denver International Airport, Colorado

  • Considering mobile-powered, touchless retail payment; andÂ
  • Considering self-service reservation system enabling enrolled passengers to reduce physical contact by being inside the airport during a designated time.


Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates

  • Implementation of a “smart immigration tunnel” at Terminal 3 that combines facial recognition, artificial intelligence and machine learning, allowing complete immigration checks in 15 seconds.Â


Guiyang Airport, China

  • 5G robots that patrol to monitor mask wearing.Â


Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport

  • Facial recognition technology deployed at two departure gates and slated to be at 15 gates by Oct. 2020.


Incheon Airport, Korea

  • Robots in departure halls that check traveler’s temperatures and offer hand sanitizer via a dispenser.Â


LaGuardia Airport, New York

  • Do-it-yourself baggage drops and check-in kiosks;
  • Restrooms with hands-free sinks, soap dispensers and hand dryers;Â
  • Replacing customer feedback devices with the large smiley face buttons with QR code-enabled widgets;Â
  • Shops and food concessions replacing cash and card transactions with touchless payment methods using customers’ mobile devices;Â
  • Use of biometric screening with facial recognition technology to speed entry;Â
  • Use of UV sterilizing light bulbs on surfaces such as escalator handrails;
  • Terminal C and departure hall elevators have antimicrobial buttons; and
  • Port Authority installing PPE vending machines in all airport terminals in case fliers forgets their required face mask or hand sanitizer.


Newark Liberty International Airport, Terminal B, New Jersey

  • Arriving passengers step onto sanitizing floor mats designed to disinfect soles of shoes before gaining entry to the airport.Â


Oslo Airport, Norway 

  • Remote check-in;
  • Receive boarding pass barcode sent directly to passengers’ smart phones for touchless boarding as well as scan the barcode at a kiosk to receive a luggage tag;Â
  • Self-service scanner to drop-off luggage; and
  • Deployment of cloud-based passenger platform for touchless check-in technology.


Leading-edge technology is crucial and readily available to enhance and increase safety in airport environments. For airport executives to determine the best technology to deploy for a particular use case, security integrators’ and consultants’ skills are necessary. For example, as more and more technological gadgets, gizmos, devices and widgets are put into use, especially in a public environment, cybersecurity risks dramatically increase. Therefore, putting together and offering packages of some of the most sought-after biometric devices to help achieve a touchless environment with cybersecurity and professional monitoring included would be a unique way for security professionals to pivot their business to stay relevant and in demand during this pandemic while helping airports pivot to a touchless experience.

Key Takeaways

  1. There’s an increasing use of biometric technologies in airports to help enable a touchless travel experience.Â
  2. As part of biometric solutions, airports are seeking additional health measurements such as temperature scanning, thermal imaging, etc. all in a single device.Â
  3. With the use of biometric technology, comes data privacy concerns.
  4. Self-service is a growing expectation among travelers.
  5. Travelers expect stress-free, positive, seamless experiences as they get from check-in to airplane seat.Â
  6. Packaging products and services and offering some type of monthly service offers unique solutions for airport end-users and RMR for integrators and consultants. Â


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