Airports Biometric Check-ins Grow as US Eyes Security Check Adoption

By Bianca Gonzalez

Convenience is motivating people to use biometric identification at airports in the U.S., aviation industry leaders said in a webinar this week on educating passengers. Meanwhile, airports in Saudi Arabia, France, and Thailand are all in different phases of rolling out biometric check-in options at their airports to streamline and secure travel.

Industry leaders talk public education with Future Travel Experience

In a Future Travel Experience podcast on Thursday, industry leaders explored how to communicate the potential of biometrics at airports to bring a more secure, streamlined travel experience while ensuring privacy. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is currently exploring the use of biometrics for identity verification at traveler checkpoints.

U.S. states like Iowa, California, and Arizona have recently expanded their digital ID programs to be more integrated into more areas where ID checks happen, like airports. TSA PreCheck allows individuals to authenticate using digital IDs at all checkpoints and allows users to opt out of the system entirely if they would rather go through the traditional verification process.

The agency is currently using the second generation of its credential authentication technology (CAT2), developed by Idemia. In addition to the ID fraud detection capabilities of the first generation, CAT2 performs one-to-one matching between a physical or digital ID and face biometrics, ensuring both that the ID is authentic and that the individual is the correct person identified.

While industry stakeholders may see the use of biometrics as a win for security and safety, “people are opting in because of that third element,” convenience, says Lisa Sullivan, VP of travel and transport at Idemia. “We always constantly think about that from the industry perspective. But consumers are really excited about the frictionless aspect of it.”

Saudi Arabia airport to launch pilot program

At its annual general meeting in Riyadh this week, the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO) and air transport IT provider SITA announced they are launching pilots of SITA’s Travel Digital Identity Solution. The digital ID check trials will take place at three AACO airlines over the next few months.

The new system will replace multiple physical ID checks at airport check-in, security, and boarding checkpoints with a digital ID check that is verified at each checkpoint.

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The service will verify a passenger’s identity by matching an individual’s biometrics on their physical documents to an ICAO-compliant digital ID on their smartphone, consolidating travel documents.

In France, 30K passengers use biometric check-in over 3 years

For the past three years, Lyon Airport in France has been testing a facial recognition system called the “Biometric Experience” that replaces a traditional passport check solely with a face scan. In that time, roughly 30,000 passengers flying Transavia, Air Corsica and TAP Air Portugal have used the process on up to four flights a day.

“There’s no need to get out any ID papers. The facial recognition system just opens a gate and passengers can get to the plane,” said Lyon Airport director Ludovic Gas to The Connexion.

To access the service, passengers must first download the Lyon Airport app and pre-register their travel documents. At the airport, they will have dedicated queues at security and check-in gates, which automatically open after authenticating with a face scan.

So far, the system has a satisfaction rating of 4.9 out of 5. It is available on flights to Faro, Funchal, Porto, Lisbon, Ajaccio and Bastia. CNIL, a French data protection agency, monitors the way airports are using biometric data.

The system has been approved for flights within the EU, but it may not be able to be rolled out to international flights due to differences in data protection and passport checks regulations.

Thailand’s biometric ID system used for flight check-in

The Airport Authority of Thailand has developed its own “Smart Path” biometric identification system and implemented it for the check-in of flight VZ626 from Bangkok to Singapore at Thai Vietjet airport, The Nation reports.

The system verifies a passenger’s identity at different checkpoints throughout the traveler’s journey.

To use the system, passengers need to go to a check-in counter and grant permission for their information to be used. The passenger will receive a “One ID,” a dataset that includes their PII, biometrics, travel itinerary, and travel token, which can be enrolled and verified within seconds.

Passengers can then use One ID for identity verification at all checkpoints, including security and self-serviced boarding, without needing to show a physical travel document.

The system was implemented in stages for flights between Bangkok and Singapore last weekend.

Source: Biometric Update

Bianca Gonzalez is a freelance journalist. She has written for Next City, Bold Culture, Insider, and Infosec Institute.

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