Lufthansa is planning to extend its biometric boarding pass program across the U.S. after successful trials in Los Angeles.
Instead of asking for a boarding pass or barcode on your phone, the airline plans to use special cameras to take a photo of your face which it then uploads to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The whole process takes just a few seconds. During the trials in L.A., Lufthansa boasts it was able to board 350 passengers onto an Airbus A380 in about 20 minutes.
“We anticipate that in near time, biometric boarding, as well as other aspects of the air travel experience, will be widely utilized across the U.S. and beyond,” said Bjoern Becker, Lufthansa’s senior director, product management ground and digital services.
“Lufthansa strives to enhance the customer experience by applying advanced technologies and innovative solutions. This is a further step towards achieving that goal.” Other airlines are expected to follow Lufthansa’s lead.
Connection to CBP critical
Amadeus is an air travel IT firm working with airlines to help them connect to the CBP database, so they can avoid building their own databases of facial information.
“CBP is excited to work with air travel industry partners like Lufthansa to demonstrate how facial biometrics can provide a range of traveler benefits for a secure and seamless passenger experience,” said John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“Biometric boarding has enormous potential to make the travel experience easier and less stressful,” said Guido Haarmann, Managing Director, Central & Eastern Europe, Airlines, Amadeus. “Last year, over 1.6bn passengers boarded planes using Amadeus Altéa technology.
Amadeus’ mission is to develop technology that creates better journeys for travelers worldwide, and it is a pleasure to be working with our established partner Lufthansa to bring this innovative technology to market.” Jetblue and Delta have reportedly already launched biometric pilots.
Data storage poses hack threat
While airlines say the systems mean less queuing in airports many others are concerned about the potential for privacy breaches. When such large amount of data need to be stored somewhere, the potential for hacking increases.
The airlines love the idea as it has the potential to reduce the required number of staff on the ground. But even if the system is rolled out more widely, passengers would likely still have to opt-in to it and could request to use a traditional boarding pass if desired.
Biometrics becomes commonplace
While the idea of biometrics seems in the realm of sci-fi, the technology is present in many of our everyday activities. For example, most high-end smartphones use your fingerprint to keep them secure.
If you own a smart device in your home, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home then your voice has also been used to identify you.