British Airways is getting into the biometric game with its boarding gates in the US. Last year they began testing self-service boarding gates at LAX, and they are now rolling out the gates in some flights to/from Orlando, Miami, and JFK airports as well.
The new technology doesn’t replace security screenings; rather, it allows the airline to bypass scanning everyone’s boarding passes at the gate as they board the plane. Instead of having to produce their boarding pass, travelers just look into a camera, wait for their biometric data to scan and be confirmed against their passport/visa/immigration photos, and then proceed onto the plane. The main benefit? Speed. British Airways says that in LAX, these new gates allowed them to board 400 passengers in 22 minutes, less than half the time it usually takes.
Other airlines are getting in on the biometric tech too. JetBlue is trialing biometric boarding on flights from Boston to Aruba, and last year Delta started trying out facial recognition for checking luggage and fingerprints for boarding. Dubai International Airport is working on a tunnel equipped with both facial recognition cameras and iris scanners (!) that would cut the need for travel documents entirely.
Why It’s Hot: The impetus behind this tech development – faster, smoother boarding – is ostensibly a positive thing. But what databases are necessary for this kind of screening? Immigration and ID documents are incredibly sensitive, even more so in our current xenophobic political climate. Is cutting down boarding time worth the risk?