Playbook to Safely Reopen Airports

Everything you need to know, in one document, with research from regulatory bodies, industry groups, and airport operators from around the globe.

After the World Health Organization classified COVID-19 as a pandemic, countries around the world closed their borders and restricted airports to allow only essential travel. Fast forward to the present day, some countries have relaxed border restrictions allowing travellers to pass. As airports open, there remains the need to limit the spread of COVID-19 by following social distancing guidelines, frequent sanitizing, and the use of personal protective equipment. Airports need an extra layer of security as they are the riskiest channel to a region and the country.

Airports benefit from having single, directional travellers paths and mandatory checkpoints. This insight can be used as an advantage in limiting transmission by deploying strategies that are best suited for checkpoints and behaviour exhibited by travellers in the areas.

The below guide contains a non-exhaustive list of guidelines to prevent and limit the spread of the virus, allowing airports to safely reopen as we continue the fight against COVID-19.

Rethinking Lanes & Traveller Checkpoints

  • The use of technology to automate identification, secure immigration process, and minimizing contact between travellers and staff should be considered.
  • Technology can also help in preempting higher traffic, queueing, and allocation of resources and sanitization schedules.
  • For declarations on arrivals, the use of digital forms can minimize human-to-human contact.
  • Thermal scanners can be installed to scan temperatures of travellers quickly and anonymously.
  • Monitoring and limiting traveller occupancy in airports by deploying WiFi or camera counting technology.
  • Enhanced ventilation can be installed to clean indoor air.

Focusing on Important Areas

Different areas of airports have different behaviours and require specific actions in order to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. Improved cleaning of indoor air along with the use of technology to reduce face-to-face interaction, monitoring occupancy, and having special processes in place will greatly increase the safety of airport areas in general.

Below is a list of airports areas and their respective guidance to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19.


  • Travellers should be encouraged to complete check-in processes via online check-in prior to arriving at the airport and use mobile boarding passes.
  • The recommended time of arriving prior to departure, traditionally 3 hours for international and 90 minutes for domestic flights, can be reduced to avoid increased traffic at check-in areas
  • Floor signage at the check-in queue should be installed.
  • Usage of transparent barriers in front of the check-in counters.
  • Sanitization stations at kiosks, touchscreens, and high-frequency disinfection of all high contact surfaces.
  • Usage of contactless technology and processes whenever possible.
  • Reiterating social distancing guidelines via public announcements, audio, and digital screens.
  • Implementation of measures that reduce congestion within areas through advanced-planning and monitoring of traveller flows.

Security & Immigration:

  • The use of signage and information regarding newly implemented health requirements and updated processes should be communicated to travellers throughout the security process.
  • High traffic or high queue times should be predicted and monitored and avoided at best possible with the use of technology.
  • Security checkpoint layouts should be rearranged to facilitate social distancing and reduce crowding.
  • Wherever possible, incorporate non-contact technologies or processes that minimize face-to-face interaction such as mobile boarding passes and visual inspection of documentations.
  • If there is a need for a manual search, screeners should change gloves after every search.
  • Non-contact thermometers should be used in designated areas to detect travellers with high temperatures and alert them as per the relevant procedures set forth by local governments or regulating bodies.
  • Floor decals should be added to queuing areas to reinforce social distancing guidelines.
  • Regular cleaning and disinfecting of any touched surfaces and security equipment.
  • Health-related liquids, such as alcohol-based hand sanitizers, can be accepted if governing authorities permit.

Gates & Retail:

  • Self-boarding technologies and processes like automatic doors, boarding pass readers, and digital display should be set up to prevent face-to-face interactions.
  • For retail, contactless technology payment and self-serve options should be implemented.
  • Restaurants should be encouraged to provide disposable utensils and contactless or disposable menus in the dining area.
  • Escalators and elevators should be frequently sanitized and limited to facilitate social distancing guidelines.
  • Sitting areas should be reduced or partially closed to avoid travellers sitting next to each other.
  • Lounges should be monitored to ensure reduced occupancies.
  • Smoking areas and toilets should be frequently sanitized.
  • Multiple alcohol-based sanitizer stations should be placed at strategic locations and regularly replenished.
  • Staff should be encouraged to use PPE at all times.

Baggage Area:

  • Cleaning of carousels can be scheduled with each arriving flight’s schedule.
  • Clear floor markings or decals to promote social distancing and prevent overcrowding.
  • A faster baggage claim process to ensure travellers spend minimal time in claim areas.
  • Avoid removal of baggage in a single area as it can lead to overcrowding.
  • Self-service kiosks or online/phone options for lost or damaged baggage.
  • PPE for on-floor staff handling baggage and employees at claim counters.

Traveller Pickup & Drop Off Areas:

  • Social distancing guidelines and measures should be in place in the landside area.
  • Traffic management or crowd control should be established especially in the greeter’s area.
  • Multiple sanitization stations should be placed in strategic locations near the entry and at greeter’s areas.
  • Increased cleaning and maintenance of high touch surfaces.

Keeping airports to strict guidelines is of paramount importance as countries ease international travel restrictions. This ensures that another major flare up of this pandemic does not reoccur, spreading by opening borders once more.

Get in touch with our team:

We hope that this playbook will be useful for airports as they plan to reopen borders. If you have any suggestions or found any updates, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out to us at and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

Aislelabs’ coverage on responses to coronavirus:

Shopping Malls
Brands & Retail
Food & Beverage


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