More airlines saying ‘leave your passport in your pocket’

Facial recognition is becoming the new ‘express ticket’ for boarding or entering the frequent flyer lounge.

By Chris Ashton, November 18 2022
More airlines saying ‘leave your passport in your pocket’

Faster boarding with less face-to-face contact could soon be coming to an airport near you, with the post-pandemic trend for biometric scanning – eliminating the need to present a passport prior to travel through facial recognition – gaining fresh momentum.

British Airways and Air New Zealand are just two of the newest adopters of the time-saving technology, with both airlines expanding biometric scanning trials earlier this week.

“In the new travel era, we need simplicity not complexity,” says Air New Zealand’s Chief Digital Officer Nikhil Ravishankar. Contactless technology is key to making that possible.

Travellers “want their airport experience to be hassle-free and technology is a key enabler of that,” Ravishankar explains.

Airline industry group IATA says more than 75% of passengers “see huge value in biometric verification and want to use it instead of passports and boarding passes,” he adds.

At the airport, users have their identity verified at a dedicated biometric check-in.
At the airport, users have their identity verified at a dedicated biometric check-in.

British Airways and Air New Zealand join a growing list of global carriers already utilising biometrics, including Lufthansa, Emirates, American Airlines, and Singapore Airlines. Star Alliance is also using it at gates and frequent flyer lounges in Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Hamburg.

The alliance aims to have half of its 26 member airlines using it by 2025.

Air New Zealand recently moved beyond the trial stage and is now expanding the number of airports where travellers can take advantage of biometric scanning, but only in the US.

LAX was the first cab off the rank, with San Francisco next and more airports to follow soon.

Following its successful trial at LAX, Air New Zealand is adding more US cities to the mix.
Following its successful trial at LAX, Air New Zealand is adding more US cities to the mix.

Following a successful domestic rollout of the tech in 2017, British Airways is also launching it on international routes, with a six-month trial inviting guests bound for Malaga in Spain from Heathrow Terminal 5 invited to take part.

After scanning their face, passport and boarding at home, travellers can then have their identity verified at the airport by ‘Smart Bio-Pod’ cameras. British Airways says it takes less than three seconds for the system to accurately identify them.

David Breeze, Operations Transformation Manager for British Airways, describes it as “a smarter and smoother airport experience” that reduces time needed to board aircraft.

“The beauty of this technology is that it also frees our people up to look after more complex customer enquiries and deliver the best possible customer service,” Breeze explains.

Users scan their boarding pass, passport and face prior in preparation for biometric scanning.
Users scan their boarding pass, passport and face prior in preparation for biometric scanning.

Air New Zealand’s Ravishankar reveals biometrics at the boarding gate is “only the beginning and we’re in talks with industry players, globally and here in New Zealand, about how we can use biometric technology throughout the whole airport process.”

In Australia, Perth Airport began biometrics trials on selected Singapore Airlines flights back in October, while Darwin Airport will switch on upgraded SmartGates featuring advanced facial recognition in December. Other local airports are expected to follow by the end of 2024.

CX

16 May 2015

Total posts 18

And what happens when you try and claim frequent flyer points and an airline asks you to submit your boarding pass?

Air Canada - Aeroplan

28 Feb 2015

Total posts 81

I don't see a problem. Don't delete your boarding card from Wallet / keep a screen grab of your boarding card.

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 150

Something to be cautious of, but as always out of our control. With ciber crime rife at the moment, is your information safe!

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 346

Stiff like this has been available at Zurich, Frankport  BenGurion  for years  The pass control , gates , entry to departure areas, boarding etc et al work with echips in passport, or simply boarding pass

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 60

While this may be great when it all works correctly, I’m just waiting for the first airline/airport system to get hacked and all that biometric information goes onto the dark web. I wonder if it will be as attractive then. 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

26 Apr 2019

Total posts 7

Used this system when taking QF 12 from LAX to SYD on Saturday, so Qantas is already using it. I wouldn't say that it was faster by any means.  Indeed, I walked away wondering how long it was going to take a full A380 to get everyone through the gates as the facial recognition tech seemed to take just a little bit longer than the normal manual process, and there will of course be inevitible requirements for re-processing etc (as happened to the lady in front of me).  Needless to say we didn't take off anywhere near on time.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

04 Aug 2017

Total posts 10

Spot on. Didn't work for me when leaving LAX on QF12 earlier in the year and they had to manually process me. The data security issue is a big one for mine - unfortunately it will only be a matter of time before someone hacks it successfully. 


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