The new boarding pass: face recognition technology in airports

The world of travel evolves at a frantic pace with the aim of making international transit safer and turning the overall passenger experience into a pleasant, seamless and quick procedure. With holiday goers and frequent travellers in mind, and taking into account that their level of safety and the elimination of time-consuming processes are among their main concerns, those in charge have resolved to implement facial recognition software in the security checkpoints and boarding gates of the terminal buildings. In order for this system to work, the biometrics of our face must have been previously scanned and linked to our background data and records, which can thus be easily consulted and confirmed remotely by the immigration authorities in a matter of seconds.

But how exactly can facial recognition replace a boarding pass or passport?

Once this system is fully implemented, passengers will be able to skip the queues and proceed directly to their assigned boarding gate. In some cases, they won’t even need to go to the check-in counter or pass through the security checkpoint as we know it. At the gate, all they will have to do is look straight at a screen to have their facial features scanned, immediately receiving an “all clear for boarding” message if the identification has been successful.

This will help avoid ID falsification and other forms of impersonation, since –as experts claim- no two faces in the world are identical and the biometric scan airport technology will be virtually impossible to deceive. This provides a greater sense of security as well as a totally hassle-free boarding experience.

Do I still need a passport when travelling?

Yes, you do need a passport and a boarding pass to transit and depart most international airports in the world in 2018. Face recognition boarding using biometrics has been trialled at major hubs across the world including Dubai (DXB), Sydney (SYD), Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Boston Logan (BOS), London Heathrow (LHR) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), and such trials have been carried out on select flights by renowned carriers. In 2019, it is planned that it will be implemented in airports across India, while it will gradually start being official in many others around the globe.

Biometric scan as a substitute for boarding passes: goals and challenges

The main goals to achieve through the implementation of facial recognition scans at airports instead of using passports and boarding passes are:

  1. Speed up the entire check-in and boarding processes for both international travellers and the ground staff in the terminals: shorter waiting times, less queues and zero stress.
  2. Create a safer environment in which potential criminals or illegal passengers will be detected effectively.
  3. Personalise the whole airport experience by installing biometric scanners also at the baggage drop-off, the entrance to the cabin and the arrivals passport control booths.

By way of example, British Airways has already conducted a trial in which 240 passengers could board the plane in only 15 minutes thanks to this revolutionary method, departing on time and arriving safely at their destination.

Advantages and disadvantages of the use of biometrics in airports

  1. As result of using face recognition as your boarding pass, you will have more time to spend at the airport concourse if you like to eat and shop before flying or, on the contrary, if you actually hate the airport life, there will be no need for you to arrive early, but simply to be on time to catch your flight.
  2. You will skip the annoying queues that make you feel you are not in control of your own time and which may, additionally, make you miss your flight if the terminal is too crowded or something unexpected occurs.
  3. You won’t be required to look for your passport or boarding pass to show it to the staff several times in a few hours.

That being said, airport technology comes with a downside as well:

  1. For the time being, it will not be applicable to baggage-drop counters and other security points inside the facilities of airports.
  2. A considerable amount of travellers fear that it will eliminate rituals that have characterised international journeys ever since the origins of travel –in fact, its most “romantic” part– and that they will no longer be able to keep their boarding passes as souvenirs of their trips, to mention but a few disadvantages.

If you travel for business or leisure and like to book your trips independently, we recommend you read one of our latest posts to learn how to make hotel reservations online.