United adapts tech to cater to new demands of coronavirus pandemic

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – To reduce health risks for travelers during the coronavirus pandemic, airlines are adapting technology to the new needs.

United Airlines fliers are able to scan their mobile boarding pass at touchless kiosks to get their bag tags. Varkey Pyngolil, United’s Miami International Airport’s general manager of airport operations, said they started testing the technology in early February.

“This is the technology we piloted when we had the Super Bowl in Miami to expedite the check-in process,” Pyngolil said, adding United “wanted to limit the amount of touchpoints.”

It is measures such as these that have pushed MIA to become the first airport in Florida and the second in the country to be accredited under the Airports Council International’s health accreditation program. ACI is the only global trade representative of the world’s airport authorities.

United Airlines has also included NovaRover, a robot that sprays antimicrobial on an entire aircraft in about a minute and a half. MicroSonic Solutions adapted the robot, which was originally intended for cruise ships, and United is using it at MIA and nine other airports around the country. This is used in combination with a regular electrostatic spraying regimen, according to United.

To improve ventilation, United also reported installing High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters to recirculate the air every two to three minutes. Airlines' willingness to spend on these measures is part of a new worldwide approach to marketing during the pandemic.

According to McKinsey & Co., marketing research and consulting firm, consumer behavior during the pandemic in 45 countries displays a few trends in common. The reported trends included a demand for safety measures such as enhanced cleaning and physical barriers. Consumers surveyed also preferred companies that demonstrate care and concern for the health of employees and the community.

The increased use of disinfectants at businesses has raised concerns among people who live with respiratory health conditions.

Related story: Air travel slowly recovers during pandemic amid efforts to sanitize, social distance

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