Etihad Airways will test technology to identify at-risk travellers

Siobháin Spear
Apr 6, 2020

The airline will be the first to trial the technology that could be used at airport check-in or information kiosks.

While the Abu Dhabi airline may be restricted with its flight plans, there is no stopping Etihad Airways from investing its focus into initiatives to help the most vulnerable during the pandemic and into launching technology that could prevent future flight risks.

According to WAM, Etihad Airways will partner with Australian company Elenium Automation to trial new technology which allows self-service devices at airports to be used to help identify travellers with medical conditions — potentially including the early stages of COVID-19.

The UAE national airline will be the first airline to trial the technology, which can monitor the temperature, heart rate and 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,” the company said, adding that it will then divert to a teleconference or alert qualified staff on site, who can make further assessments and manage travellers as appropriate.

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 minimising the potential of any viral or bacterial transmission.

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

Commenting on the trial, Jorg Oppermann, Vice President Hub and Midfield Operations, Etihad Airways, said: “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,”

He added, “We are testing this technology because we believe it will not only help in the current COVID-19 outbreak, but also into the future, with assessing a passenger’s suitability to travel and thus minimising disruptions. At Etihad we see this is another step towards ensuring that future viral outbreaks do not have the same devastating effect on the global aviation industry as is currently the case.”

Aaron Hornlimann, CEO and Co-Founder of Elenium Automation, said that the system would screen every individual, including multiple people on the same booking. The technology can also be retrofitted into any airport kiosk or bag drop or installed as a desktop system at a passenger processing point such as an immigration desk.

In other progressive news announced in the UAE today, RAK Tourism Department Authority has outlined measures to mitigate the impact on tourism as a result of COVID-19.

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