With the holidays and an anticipated uptick in travel approaching, Orlando International Airport (MCO) has introduced some brand-new measures to help minimize physical contact, reducing the potential for viral transmission.
"We have been able to implement several procedures, all of which have been done without compromising security, to make sure passengers get there safely and securely," Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokeswoman Lorie Dankers told ClickOrlando.
In areas where maintaining proper physical distancing is challenging, new acrylic barriers have been put in place and, of course, mask-wearing is required throughout the airport.
New, no-touch identification readers have been installed so that travelers don't need to hand their passports or IDs to TSA officers. "No need to show their boarding pass [either]," Dankers explained. "It is a touchless experience."
But, the big technological equipment upgrades are MCO's brand-new X-ray machines at TSA security checkpoints. "It produces a 3-D image. Our officers are able to get very clear images of the contents of the bag," Dankers said.
Clearer images lead to fewer bag checks being necessary. "Fewer bag checks mean fewer potential for those touchpoints and also cross-contamination," Dankers explained.
The volume of travelers that will be passing through airports this season still remains largely unpredictable. TSA data has revealed that air travel since May remains down by 74 percent, as a majority of Americans continue to prefer traveling via personal vehicle amid the pandemic.
A recent AAA study suggested that Thanksgiving air travel volume would be down by around 50 percent this year. "We know a lot of travel right now is being booked last-minute, and part of our job is to be ready for whatever volume of travelers come through," Dankers said.
Even with the new precautions put in place by TSA, Dankers emphasized that infection prevention starts with the traveler. Flyers should be aware that certain items are still prohibited from passing through the new X-ray machines. Electronics and cell phones, shoes, keys and pocket items will still need to go into bins for screening.
Dankers recommended that flyers sign up for TSA Precheck beforehand so that they can keep their shoes on and leave their laptops in their bags. Precheck approval takes about a week to process, so passengers should be sure to get applications in ahead of time.
"We know that exposure to the coronavirus is really based on two things: proximity and duration," said Dankers. "Anything you can do to make sure you are moving the whole time through the checkpoint is good for the traveler and it is good for our employees."
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