How MENA airports are getting ready to post COVID-19 travels

How MENA airports are getting ready to post COVID-19 travels

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As the world is slowly preparing to commence a new phase of interactivity, business, and commuting, trying to live with COVID-19 new momentum, HN explores how some of the MENA region’s are getting ready to kick off their flight schedules.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said the timing and the speed of air traffic recovery will ultimately depend on the development of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is of a very different nature than any previous crisis in that it has affected supply, demand and health security and by extension the entire global economy,” said Griffiths. “We’re dealing with a monster here for which we clearly have to find a solution. Until there is a proven level of confidence medically that people can travel without fear of spreading or contracting the virus, the situation we find ourselves in is likely to continue.”

Griffiths explained that until a medical solution is found, the industry will rely on bilateral agreements that enable the resumption of services. “We will gradually start to see some confidence build between trusted countries where the governments have acted significantly enough and early enough to get the spread of the virus under control,” he said. 

Restoring consumer confidence is another area requiring industry attention. Griffiths confirmed that Dubai Airports will continue to ensure a safe and healthy airport environment by enabling social distancing, conducting thermal screening and COVID-19 testing in support of health authorities and undertaking robust deep-cleaning and sanitization to help alleviate customer concerns about air travel once scheduled services resume. 

“We’re looking at an 18 month to two-year time frame but that is highly dependent upon the development of an effective treatment or vaccine and the establishment of bilateral agreements between countries. So, while we can’t predict how quickly or when this will happen, I am optimistic that the innate demand when people realize it is once again safe to travel will be huge. There will come a point where the world will open up again and the desire to travel will be even stronger than it has been in the past and Dubai Airports and the entire aviation community will be ready.”

Qatar’s Hamad International Airport (HIA), has implemented the latest technologies to optimize passenger and employee safety in preparation for post-COVID-19 travel. The airport will be using robotics and advanced thermal screening helmets as part of the measures being introduced for the Post-COVID-19 era.

Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer, chief operating officer at HIA said: “HIA has adapted to the changes brought on by the spread of COVID-19 on the world, especially in the travel sector. Recovery plans have been put in place with priority given to the safety and comfort of travelers and employees. These plans include the use of the latest advanced technology to achieve the highest safety standards for the future travel experience.”

Travelers at HIA will be screened using thermal and temperature screening. The Smart Screening Helmet is a wearable intelligent helmet, which is portable, safe and effective, and enables contactless temperature measurement. This helmet uses multiple advanced technologies such as infrared thermal imaging, artificial intelligence and AR (augmented reality) display. It can also enable implementation of mobile deployment-based control scenarios.

HIA has also invested in disinfectant robots, which are fully autonomous mobile devices emitting concentrated UV-C light, which are known to be effective in eliminating the majority of infectious microorganisms. The robots are being deployed in vulnerable high passenger flow areas to reduce the spread of pathogens.

All passengers will be provided with hand sanitizers at key locations. The airport will continue to maintain 1.5m social distance across all passenger touch points around the airport, through floor markings, signage and distance seating. All HIA retail and food and beverage outlets will encourage cashless transactions through cards and are considering introducing online or in-app purchases in the future.

Furthermore, HIA has invested in ultraviolet disinfection tunnels that will be used to disinfect all checked-in passenger luggage (departing, arriving and transferring). The airport will also conduct regular disinfection of all baggage trolleys and tubs.

When it comes to employees’ safety, the airport is emphasizing the use of masks and gloves and using a face mask detection system which utilizes artificial intelligence and computer vision technologies to automatically detect if everyone is wearing masks. The airport will continue cleaning and disinfecting all high contact areas every 10-15 minutes, while making sure everyone has access to hand sanitizers.

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