How Digital Thermometers are Assisting the Aviation Industry

Health and Security
Nick Cummins
min read
July 1, 2020
A passenger gets their temperature checked

If there is something we are all too familiar with when it comes to flying, it's passing through tests. Security tests to see if we have anything in our pockets, immigration tests to see if we have the right visa, and even tests to see if we are transporting suspicious objects in our luggage. However, passengers need to prepare themselves for a new kind of test the next time they travel - temperature tests.

Why is temperature important?

Temperature, or a rise in body temperature, has been proven to be a telltale sign of the body fighting off infectious diseases. Without diving into complicated medical explanations, part of the immune system's response to repealing foreign agents is to start a sweltering fever. Sometimes the rise in body temperature is the only symptom of a virus and may alert medical authorities that something is wrong long before the patient comes in contact with other members of the public.

This has become especially noticeable during the current COVID-19 crisis. A higher body temperature is one of the cornerstone signatures of the coronavirus, along with dry coughing, tiredness, and other flu-like symptoms.

"If you've got a fever, then you might have COVID-19, but if you don't have a fever, it doesn't mean that you don't have it"

said Australian Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr. Harry Nespolon, to the ABC.

When it comes to aviation, it is vital that no one with a fever enters an aircraft, to protect the passengers and crew on board as well as prevent the virus from spreading beyond the local hot spot.

"In terms of screening customers to make sure, for example, that you don't have someone getting on the airplane that has a fever. I think that's going to be very important." - Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines told CNBC.

A fever is typically reported as any temperature over 37 degrees Celcius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and can be detected by contactless thermometers and infrared scanners.

What is a Contactless Thermometer?

To the uninitiated, you may not know the difference between standard temperature thermometers and a digital contactless one.

The first significant difference is the contactless nature of the digital thermometer. When using it for biosecurity screening, it doesn't have to touch any part of the skin to read an accurate temperature. It can be held around two feet away (well outside of social distancing of two meters) and read the surface temperature of the skin using a laser. This distance not only protects the thermometer user, but also prevents cross-contamination between passengers due to the fact that passengers do not come into contact with the same thermometer.

Digital thermometers are also faster and quicker than traditional tools, allowing passengers and other crew members to return to their duties after a simple temperature check. Most devices are easy to use and don't require any medical knowledge to interpret the results.

How will it Assist Air Travel?

The importance of temperature checks is obvious, and if there is one item to add to the growing grocery list of preventative measures (such as using Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), sanitizing, and handwashing), it's digital thermometers.

Some airlines have already initiated temperature checks as part of their essential screening for their operations.

"The health and safety of everyone flying Frontier is paramount, and temperature screenings add an additional layer of protection for everyone on board," said the United States Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle. "[This] will serve to provide Frontier customers an assurance that their well-being is our foremost priority, and we are taking every measure to help them travel comfortably and safely."

Other airlines in the United States are pushing for temperature checks and screening to be a critical cornerstone of coronavirus prevention, and be done by airport security.

"As all screening processes for the traveling public are the responsibility of the U.S. government, having temperature checks performed by the TSA will ensure that procedures are standardized, providing consistency across airports so that travelers can plan appropriately"

Airlines for America said recently in a release

The best way that airlines and airports can use this technology is:

  • Screen every passenger entering the airport and/or as they board each flight. This will ensure that no one boards a confined aircraft with a fever.
  • For airlines, it is important to check crew members as well as other staff who enter the aircraft. Because the virus can exist on surfaces for longer time periods, you need to ensure that no infected ground staff enter the plane and contaminate the environment.
  • Every temperature should be logged to ensure no liability on the part of the crew or the airline. If needed, temperature records can be handled over authorities to help facilitate contact tracing.

Disadvantages of Contactless Thermometers

Alas, despite temperature checks and contactless thermometers being incredibly useful tools, there are some limitations.

The technology cannot detect the coronavirus, and it is completely possible that someone who detects a high reading might be infected with a different, less deadly virus like a cold, or is just hot (thus why we recommend scanning passengers after they have been in a cooler environment first).

Additionally, 10-30% of all coronavirus carriers simply don't show any fever symptoms. They are infectious but have a normal temperature. Thus biosecurity staff need to ensure they also look for other symptoms such as coughing and tiredness, as well as if the traveler is wearing proper protective equipment.

Lastly, the contactless thermometer measures surface temperatures, not core body temperatures. It can be a bit of a challenge to get an accurate body temperature of someone who is wrapped up and has their face covered.

Are they part of the necessary equipment to fight COVID-19?

Nevertheless, as shown in this article, digital thermometers are a must-have for airports and airlines. They assist in stopping the spread of the virus by helping officials or crew to quickly and easily identify high-risk passengers. These contactless devices form part of the equipment essential to the relaunch of full operational activity in a post-COVID environment.

Eways Aviation has secured a supply of essential contactless thermometers, and stand ready to facilitate airports and airlines with this technology. Be sure to get in touch today to add this tool to your anti-coronavirus arsenal.

Nick Cummins
Copywriter - Aviation Journalist
Journalist - Working in news media for over a decade with outlets including 9News and the Discovery Channel, Nick is an airline marketing specialist with a Masters level education. Working closely with AirAsia, Virgin Australia, Turkish Airlines and others, Nick provides unique insight and analysis on a variety of aviation topics. Based in Sydney, Australia.

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