Air Travel Tech in a post-pandemic world

Jessica Wong

(NEWS10) — Air travel is back and it’s higher than any other time during the coronavirus pandemic. Air travelers are back in line this April. While masked and socially distant, they are ready for take-off this spring. More COVID-19 Coverage from NEWS10 Phillip Calderone, the Albany County Airport Authority CEO […]

(NEWS10) — Air travel is back and it’s higher than any other time during the coronavirus pandemic. Air travelers are back in line this April. While masked and socially distant, they are ready for take-off this spring.

Phillip Calderone, the Albany County Airport Authority CEO explained, “Some of the new technology we’ve brought on board will give that sense of confidence to folks knowing that coming to the airport they’ll be safe in this environment than any other environment.”

With the uptick in passengers, Calderone is piloting in a new era of tech creating a digital incubator with artificial intelligence, biometrics and other cutting-edge tools to make travel safer in a post-pandemic world.

“We are for example putting in an order that have touchless buttons that use ocular sensory perception,” he explained.

So that when you get on an elevator you don’t have to touch any buttons. “We were the first airport in the world to install a wellness app,” he added.

That app allows you to scan a QR code and see when an area was last cleaned in real-time. Technology that was developed here at GE’s Global Research Lab in Niskayuna.

Inside, Senior Scientist Lynn DeRose showed off a predictive map counting the number of people passing through.

“This isn’t what the passenger would look at, this is a tool for us to look at,” she said.

It’s all to stay one step ahead of COVID.

“After a day, you’re seeing a little red here. That red indicates there is too much traffic right there. And that could be a point you don’t want to go,” she described while referencing the map on the screen, “Over there we all know that’s a point where TSA is looking at your face looking at your license. That definitely a dense point.”

Based on their calculation the model can also send a time estimate to your phone telling you exactly how long a person would have to wait.

“Down the line what we are looking at a completely touchless check-in process. We’re looking at things like biometrics, more socially distancing, things like queuing whether or not you can move forward,” DeRose said.

At the moment, all flights taking off from Albany are domestic, but when international flights do return many are wondering what’re the chances you’ll need your CDC vaccination card or some form of virtual verification to board your flight?

Head of Corporate Communications for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Perry Flint said, “I think the big challenge is that governments have not provided a single standard as to what does a digital test certificate look like.

IATA’s members include American, United, Jet Blue.

“It’s going to be a safe restart. It’s not going to be rushed,” Flint added.

Right now, there are several “vaccine passports” or verification apps available. New York’s Excelsior Pass, Common Pass, even IATA plans to launch its own health app.

“As long as everyone is working on sort of the same standards that should not be an issue,” Flint said.

Privacy could be an issue for some travelers. “IATA doesn’t maintain any central database of all the users,” Flint explained.

Most of the other apps don’t either. Through blockchain technology and data encryption, you only show a QR code.

“We are already seeing very long lines, very long lines with traffic just a fraction of what it was because everyone is carrying paper certificates,” Flint said.

“So I think what you’re going to experience in a post-COVID world . . . there will be a sense that the experience will continue to be one where it won’t be exactly like it was prior to March or February of last year,” Calderone predicted.

Albany International Airport is also looking at ways to expand certain areas to provide for more room and distancing. They will set aside federal dollars to help get that done.

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