All Aboard: Airlines Using Face Scanners


The development, expansion and growing public acceptance of facial recognition technology has arrived at its next step: your face as your boarding pass at the airport. American Airlines is rolling out what it calls Biometric Boarding for some international flights at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, with plans to expand the service to more gates and flights in the future.

Facial scanning technology for airports has been in the works for years now, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection testing it out at international security checkpoints since 2017. Houston's Bush Intercontinental was one of seven airports to carry out that pilot program. The system relies on identifying passengers by their face. "They're taking pictures that we've provided with our passports, and they're basically loading those into the system to compare against our faces as we're boarding an aircraft," says Jay Ratliff, iHeartMedia Aviation Analyst.

Ratliff tells KTRH this is the wave of the present and the future for air travelers. "One of the things airlines are looking at down the road is an agent-less boarding process at the gate," he says. "Right now this is mainly being used on international flights, but eventually the plan is to have facial recognition being used at the check-in process, and then using it at the gate as well."

We're still a long way from an agent-less experience, or even an ID-less experience. Under this system, passengers still must show their passport or photo ID to get through security. American says it does not store any of the photos, and that this is a more secure verification system for passengers. "(Airlines) look at it as enhanced customer service," says Ratliff. "I don't know if I quite agree with that, but it saves them money, and that is one of the reasons we're going to continue to go down this road."


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