Passengers wearing masks push trolleys at the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport

Israel offers peek at new normal for air travel during pandemic

Airport Authority's plan set to create 'virus-free area' through use of disinfection stands, thermal imaging at the entrance to the airport, social distancing and allowed entrances only to boarding pass holders

Reuters |
Published: 05.15.20 , 09:07
Arrive four hours early, in a mask and without any escort. Get checked for a fever, disinfect your hands, watch out for the fleet of robotic cleaners, and again disinfect your hands.
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  • This is what passengers leaving Israel should expect to encounter, according to a pilot program launched on Thursday, as air travel slowly returns to normal after weeks of very few flights.
    Passengers wearing masks push trolleys at the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport Passengers wearing masks push trolleys at the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport
    Passengers wearing masks push trolleys at the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The idea, the Airport Authority said, is to create a "coronavirus-free area" at Ben Gurion Airport, already well-known for its rigid security.
    Similar measures aimed at preventing contagion could be adopted by airports around the world, and Israel has been conferring about them with authorities in Europe and the United States, said Shmuel Zakai, Ben Gurion's managing director.
    The staff of the French Consulate in Tel Aviv inform passengers departing from Ben Gurion Airport The staff of the French Consulate in Tel Aviv inform passengers departing from Ben Gurion Airport
    The staff of the French Consulate in Tel Aviv inform passengers departing from Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: AFP)
    Representatives from the French embassy, for example, were checking documents of French passengers at check-in so they would not have to enter quarantine after returning home.
    "This kind of process we will see more and more," Zakai said.
    The challenge will be enacting policies that are not too much of a burden.
    A screen showing a thermal imaging system at the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport A screen showing a thermal imaging system at the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport
    A screen showing a thermal imaging system at the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "We would like to see again the smiles on the faces of the children, the smiles on the faces of the passengers," he said.
    The new restrictions begin at the entrance to the terminal. Only boarding pass holders are allowed in and passengers are instructed to maintain social distancing. Check-in will be mostly digital to minimize interaction with airport staff.
    A social distancing marker is seen on the floor at the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport A social distancing marker is seen on the floor at the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport
    A social distancing marker is seen on the floor at the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Hygiene stations and cleaning machines will be ubiquitous.
    Incoming travelers will face even more hurdles, but with tourists not allowed into Israel until the end of the month, those measures have yet to be decided, the authority said.
    An employee disinfects surfaces at a counter in the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport An employee disinfects surfaces at a counter in the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport
    An employee disinfects surfaces at a counter in the departures terminal at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Reuters)
    It is also trying to develop a platform to check in real-time whether passengers have been tested for the virus or its antibodies.
    As of Thursday morning, Israel has reported 16,548 cases of the novel coronavirus and 264 deaths. With the new case rate leveling out, it has reopened shopping malls and markets and part of its educational system.

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