Body temperature scanning at airports: It’s here to stay
The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an unprecedented demand for temperature body scanners in airports. Operations managers needed high-throughput equipment that could scan travelers for potential fever without causing inconvenience or posing a safety risk.
Fortunately, infrared temperature-sensing technology already existed and there were a number of firms able to supply the market. By the time international travel began opening up again in 2021, practically every major airport had temperature scanning systems in place.
The need for scanning was considerable. Management saw it as a form of triage. Instead of trying to maintain impractical six-food gaps between everyone in airport terminals, the plan was to weed out any potentially infected passengers before they made their way inside. This way, airport screening could help protect people, even in situations where social distancing wasn’t possible (such as in airport lounges, airplane cabins, and baggage handling areas).
However, even now the pandemic is waning, airport scanners are here to stay. In this post, we explain why.
Temperature scanners in previous pandemics
Body temperature scanners have been used in airports in the past. Examples include SARS, Ebola, H1N1 influenza and some dengue fever outbreaks. Airport managers believe that it is an effective way to control the spread of infection and provide passengers with a sense of safety.
Why temperature scanners at airports are probably here to stay?
During COVID-19, temperature scanners found widespread usage. Facilities managers implemented them in schools, malls, care homes and even homeless shelters. They were particularly critical in airports. But why were they so popular?
Part of the reason was that authorities wanted an easy non-contact method for checking passengers for signs of infection. Taking swabs was time-consuming and resource-intensive, and required airports to run lab facilities on-site. By contrast, with scanners, anyone could perform temperature scans with minimal training
Scanners also worked instantly: if somebody had a fever, security could simply deny them entry to the terminal. Handheld devices increased the speed that security could let people enter the airport while fixed scanning systems can eliminate delays.
Furthermore, scanners are much better able to identify instances of fever than conventional self-reporting. Patients may not realise they are sick and infectious, even if they have a temperature.
How the airport and airline industry is adapting
Given how inexpensive and rapid temperature scanning is, it is unlikely that airlines and airports will backtrack on using it. This time around, it may be here to stay.
Airlines, for instance, may continue implementing temperature screening procedures at the gate. Here, stewards scan passengers as they make their way onto the aircraft. Those with body temperatures higher than 100.4°F would be denied entry.
Policies like these may make passengers feel safer, knowing that they are not travelling in a plane with anyone who has an active fever. It is also good for pilots and cabin crews. Aircraft operators want to avoid unscheduled sickness absence which increases their costs and can generate delays.
In summary, body temperature scanning at airports is a low-cost and low-friction safety technology, making it a compelling technology for managers to continue using. Since COVID-19, airports have made the necessary investments, so the likelihood that they will want to continue using their existing stock is high.