Airports compete for worried flyers with on-site COVID-19 testing, TSA appointments, cleaning robots

With Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, United and other airlines announcing fare sales and new routes for winter, it may feel like air travel is returning to normal.

But after a spike over the Labor Day holiday, the numbers for travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints around the country are still way down compared to this time last year. And with so many countries still enforcing COVID-19-related restrictions, the outlook for international travel looks far from rosy.

Still, airports around the country are working hard to sanitize their facilities. And after a summer of scrambling to enhance cleaning regimes and install hand-sanitizing stations, plexiglass barriers and other health-focused tools, airports are adopting new strategies to keep passengers safe and instill confidence in travel.

Here are some of the programs you may encounter:

Security checkpoint by appointments

This month, Denver International Airport (DEN) debuted the free, app-powered VeriFLY program, which blends a checkpoint reservation system with a health check. Passengers download the VeriFLY app (an Android version is on the way), complete a health survey 24 hours before their flight. Once at the airport, participants get a touchless temperature check before accessing a dedicated TSA lane. For added social distancing, cleared VeriFLY flyers ride out to the concourses in a limited-capacity car on the underground train.  

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