The role of civil aviation in the global economy cannot be overstated. In addition to satisfying the demand for international transportation, it enables several adjacent industries, including airports and manufacturing sectors. So, as soon as the preventive measures are loosened, there will be a demand for effective, easy-to-deploy, and affordable solutions for ensuring passenger safety. This article provides an overview of luggage disinfection tunnels, their advantages, and their role in the comprehensive safety strategy expected from the airline industry in the near future.

Aviation Industry: Recovery from the COVID-19 Crisis

When the pandemic struck in 2020, the transportation industry became the first to feel its impact. Nowhere was it more apparent than in aviation, with over $140 billion in revenue loss and more than 40% reduction in jobs. The adverse economic effects were also extended to related sectors like aircraft manufacturing.

With the period of the most severe restrictive measures drawing to a close, airlines are exploring the possibilities for recovery. Aside from the massive economic setback, the main challenge associated with this is the need to establish and maintain a safe environment that would prevent further spread of the virus.

Luggage Disinfection: Challenges and Considerations

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is known to have two transmission routes. First, it can spread from person to person via respiratory droplets or a direct contact with the infected individual, e.g. a handshake. Second, it is possible to get it by touching a surface contaminated with the virus, and then touching one’s eyes or mouth. While the latter is not considered a primary way of infection, it is a major concern for heavily trafficked areas with multiple high-touch surfaces, including:

  • Handrails
  • Doorknobs
  • Toilets
  • Faucets
  • Countertops
  • Desks
Luggage Disinfection Tunnel

In this light, luggage is a risk that is difficult to address. On the one hand, it is clearly among the passive vectors that can transfer disease from a passenger to an airport employee. On the other hand, unlike other fomites that are on the airport’s property, its disinfection cannot be scheduled or performed without creating delays in operations.

In response to this emerging demand, a disinfection tunnel solution has been conceptualized in the academic literature. The proposed design used a combination of UV-C light and non-foaming soap solutions to disinfect the luggage passing through the compartment on a conveyor belt. While this approach solved the problem of throughput by streamlining the procedure, it also introduced a new challenge: the soap solution, despite being non-toxic and biodegradable, could still leave residue on surfaces or even damage customers’ possessions.

Disinfection Tunnel for Airport: The Evolution

Eventually, the concept of a disinfection passage was refined through collaboration with engineers. The result is what is known as a fog disinfection channel – an evolution of the concept above. The main improvement is the disinfection agent: instead of a non-foaming soap solution, the unit uses EnviroNize Anolyte, also known as hypochlorous acid or electrolyzed water. Not only is it biodegradable, but it also leaves no residue. In addition, it is chemically selective, meaning it is highly effective against a wide range of bacteria and viruses while completely harmless to both plant and animal life.

Another improvement is the disinfectant dispersion method. A fog disinfection channel is equipped with nozzles that atomize the liquid agent into microscopic particles, creating a dry mist. The low sedimentation rate of the droplets allows them to disperse evenly within the compartment and completely cover the object’s surface without creating moisture. Thanks to these innovations, the technology has been adapted to a full-body disinfection channel that makes it possible to disinfect passengers without exposing them to any risks.

Advantages of the Luggage Disinfection Tunnel

The automated disinfection passage has several advantages over traditional sanitation methods:

  • Efficient and safe for goods and people: Hypochlorous acid has demonstrated effectiveness against COVID-19 and is approved for use in public settings.
  • Convenient: In the dry fog form, the solution leaves no residue and has no adverse effects on both solid surfaces and fabric thus causing no damage to passengers’ possessions.
  • Fast: The entire disinfection procedure takes several seconds.
  • Autonomous: The unit is fully automated and requires little to no maintenance during regular operation.
  • Lasting: Thanks to the dry fogging technology, the consumption of disinfectant is minimized, while high tank capacity extends the working time.
  • Automated: The unit is easy to operate and maintain.
  • Safe: The materials and installation are compliant with international protection standards.
  • Easy to deploy: The modular and intuitive design of the unit provides for seamless installation and operation.
  • Contactless: The entire procedure is driven by sensors, so there are no high-touch surfaces involved aside from the luggage itself.

How to Disinfect Luggage with a Fog Disinfection Channel

The luggage disinfection channel was designed to accommodate the requirements of highly-trafficked public settings, so it is quite easy to operate.

  1. The luggage is placed on a Sensor Conveyor, which moves it inside the compartment.
  2. Once prompted by the infrared sensor inside, the disinfectant system is activated, dispersing the dry fog.
  3. The fog settles evenly on the surface, eradicating all potential sources of infection.
  4. The Aspirator system removes the excess disinfectant through ventilation.
  5. The conveyor belt moves the luggage outside the unit.

The entire procedure takes several seconds for each piece of baggage and requires no actions on part of the operator or the passenger aside from placing an object on the conveyor. Once the sanitation solution is depleted, the tank can be refilled by opening the lid and pouring in the disinfectant. As can be seen, it necessitates no special training and creates no delays in passenger flow once the procedure is integrated with the airport’s operations.

Wrapping Up

Airlines are an important element of the global economy as well as the transportation infrastructure in general. In the post-COVID world, their ability to resume operations should be of utmost priority. However, it also implies greater responsibility for the well-being of passengers. In real-world terms, this means significant effort and resource allocation to ensure adequate safety levels without disrupting the quality of service and customer experience. From this perspective, advanced sanitation equipment like luggage disinfection channels may become a critical component of their path to recovery.