Your Face Is, or Will Be, Your Boarding Pass

Your Face Is, or Will Be, Your Boarding Pass
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Your Face Is, or Will Be, Your Boarding Pass

Your Face Is, or Will Be, Your Boarding Pass

If you’ve been traveling for a year or more, especially internationally, you may find something different at airports in the United States: more steps – from bag checking to custom cleaning – are being automated using biometrics.

Biometrics are unique personal properties, such as fingerprints, that can be used to automate and verify identity. They promise both greater safety and efficiency in moving passengers from the airport where passengers are usually required to show government-issued photo identification on the steps from check-in to boarding.

In the wake of the epidemic, many airports, airlines, tech companies and government agencies such as the Transportation Safety Administration and the United States Customs and Border Protection continued to invest in biometric advances. The need for social distance and non-contact interaction only increased urgently.

“Technologies have become more sophisticated and accuracy rates are much higher,” said Robert Tappan, managing director of the trade group International Biometrics + Identity Association, which promotes reduced congestion and reduced contact through these tools. “COVID-accelerator.”

Most recent biometric developments use facial recognition, recently discovered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is at least 99.5 percent more accurate than iris-scanning or fingerprints.

“Iris-scanning is considered the most flawless,” said Sherry Stein, head of technology at SITA, a Switzerland-based biometrics tech company in the United States. “For biometrics to work, you need to be able to match the known reliable source of data because you are trying to compare it with the record on file. The face is the easiest because we use all the documents that prove your identity – driving license, passport etc. – Depends on the face.

Shortly after 9/11, Congress mandated access and departure systems using biometric technology to secure U.S. borders. Some passengers have expressed concern about privacy, and companies and agencies using the technology say they do not retain images, as systems rely heavily on aspiring passengers who consent to their use.

“Privacy is a major concern, it should be, so most of these programs will be selected, and the government is working to increase that pre-tested audience,” said Jason Van Sais, vice president of aviation. Department of Advanced Identification Systems of NEC Corporation of America, which has been working in biometrics since 1971. He added that losses in business during the epidemic forced airlines and airports to automate as a cost-saving measure. “It’s really a digital transformation that’s already underway.”

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There are signs that biometric acceptance is on the rise due to the epidemic. In a recently released 2021 passenger survey, the International Air Transport Association found that 73 percent of passengers are willing to share their biometric data to improve airport processing, up from 46 percent in 2019.

Some of the embrace of biometrics may come from its day-to-day applications, such as using facial recognition to open your phone or access your banking app.

“Implementation of the Integrated and Contactless Platform is currently in full swing around the world and will have a major impact by 2022, as planning and deployment typically takes 12 to 18 months to take effect,” said Jeff Lennon. , John F. of New York. Vision-Box, which operates biometric technology at more than 100 airports worldwide, including Kennedy International Airport, is the vice president of strategic sales and global partnerships. “This is consistent with the expected return of large-scale international travel next year.”

In short, technology-driven changes at airports are coming faster and faster, with further advances in biometrics.

In November, Delta Air Lines launched a new digital identification program for TSA precheck members at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport who can choose to use facial recognition to do everything from bag checking to security clearing and boarding their domestic flight.

Passengers are required to enter their US passport number when making a selection, which provides a back-end verification of your identity using your passport photo, even if the new program is only domestic.

Using a hands-free facial scan, flyers can get baggage tags and then go to a dedicated TSA precheck line for facial scanning, no identification required.

Currently, Delta’s T concourse has eight gates equipped for home boarding with facial recognition; Most of these flights go to commercial travel destinations such as New York City and Boston. Flyers do not need to show a boarding pass, and a facial recognition will appear on the screen after scanning their seat assignment.

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Delta has been testing the technology since 2018 and plans to bring it to its Detroit hub later this year.

“We want to give our customers more time to enjoy the journey,” said Byron Merritt, vice president of Delta’s brand experience design.

Only 44 percent of the U.S. population has a passport, which limits the pool of flyers that can access biometric technology that relies on passport photos. To make the technology available to more passengers, biometrics company SITA earlier this year tested a system with United Airlines at San Francisco International Airport that used driver’s licenses as well as passports as records to compare facial scans for bag inspections and home inspections. Boarding

Through a spokesperson, United said the test was a success and that it was “constantly looking for other ways to use biometrics to make the travel experience easier for customers and we will have more to share in the coming weeks and months.”

SITA declared the test a success, thanks to the growth of Real ID, which certifies requirements for driving licenses across the country and will be mandatory for airline passengers until May 3, 2023. The company plans to launch the technology next year but will not say where. .

Upon my return from Iceland to Chicago O’Hare International Airport in October, I contacted the airport kiosk, which usually scans your passport and fingerprints, and in a matter of minutes, the Global Entry members like me before Customs and Border Protection Agents. This time, the kiosk just took a picture of me, removed a copy, which included my name and passport details, and within minutes took me to the previous agents.

Customs and Border Protection introduced face recognition technology at kiosks used by global entry members from 2018. Of its 76 airports and 42 of its pre-clearance locations with global entry access, it uses facial recognition.

Global Entry, which provides accredited applicants with their fingerprints, answers detailed questionnaires and pays $ 100 to speed up re-entry into the United States, has long relied on voluntary submission of biometrics for identification.

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More broadly, CBP uses facial-comparison technology at approximately 200 airports and 12 ports used by cruise lines to enter the United States. It is currently testing a technology called Simplified Arrivals, in selected lanes for inbound vehicles at the Angelduas International Bridge Port of Entry near McAllen, Texas.

According to tech suppliers, using biometrics increases efficiency. Mr. of Vision-Box, which runs biometric boarding at Kennedy Airport in New York. Lennon said it is capable of accommodating 400 people in 20 minutes, half the normal boarding time.

Prior to the outbreak, three US-based heritage carriers were experimenting with biometric boarding of outbound international flights. Ronald Reagan has American biometric boarding at four gateways, including Washington National Airport and Chicago O’Hare, and is testing facial recognition technology to enter the Admirals Club Lounge at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

United offers technology on international flights departing from the United States at Houston, Washington Dulles, San Francisco and Chicago O’Hare. A spokesman said more than 250 international outbound flights a week are made biometrically and the airline plans to expand to additional hubs next year.

Delta allows international flyers to use their face as boarding passes at eight airports, including Minneapolis and Kennedy. Biometric boarding is optional and anyone wishing to process it manually can use a boarding pass and passport.

Probably the most visible biometrics operator at airports across the country is CLEAR, a subscription service that allows members to use dedicated kiosks to evaluate your biometric data, verify your identity and get you to the head of the TSA security line. Members pay $ 179 a year and submit an iris scan and fingerprint.

Since the epidemic, the company has launched the CLEAR Health Pass, a free digital health record for users, which clears a person based on things like the need for vaccines for quick access to participating sports venues.

Elaine Glusack is a frugal travel columnist. Follow her on Instagram eglusac.

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