Enhancing the passenger experiences is what airports are constantly aiming for with innovations in services and technology. In particular, biometrics is one of the technologies that are gradually being adopted by many major airports around the world because of the benefits that this technology brings to the passenger journey at the airport.
The aviation sector in recent years has witnessed a rapid increase in passenger traffic. According to data from Airports Council International, in 2018, global passenger traffic reached 8.8 billion, an increase of 6.4% compared to 2017. In 2019, global passenger traffic increased 3.5% to 9.1 billion. The constant increase of passenger traffic makes airports often face congestion, affecting the passenger experiences because they have to wait in line for too long.
This issue pushes airports to increasingly innovate and apply technology to their operations to manage large passenger traffic and enhance the passenger experiences. In aviation, passenger identification is very important and takes place throughout the process from the moment passengers check-in to boarding. However, having to wait for hours to prepare before flying at stages such as bag drop, security check, and departure gate make negative impacts on passenger satisfaction.
Thereby, many airports around the world have begun to find ways to apply technology to enhance passenger experiences. In which, using biometric technology to speed up the whole process at the airport and increase security for the airport is a trend that has been applied by many major airports and will have great potential in the future.
In addition, since the beginning of 2020, the outbreak of Covid-19 has placed requirements on social distancing, minimizing interactions, and stricter requirements on hygiene in crowded places. This is also a factor driving the need to adopt technologies such as biometrics at airports to make the passenger experiences safer.
What is biometrics?
Biometrics can be understood as measurements based on an individual’s unique physiological or behavioral characteristics to identify and authenticate a person’s identity. In which, physiological measurements are based on unique characteristics such as fingerprints, face shape, iris, retina, DNA, etc. Behavioral measurements based on behavioral characteristics such as voice, signature, gestures, gait, etc.
Thanks to the specificity of these characteristics, biometric technology is considered a very reliable, highly secure, and convenient method of authenticating identity. In particular, for aviation, biometric technology can help verify the identity of passengers quickly and accurately and increase security at the airport.
Adopting biometrics at airports to enhance the passenger experiences
Fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, and iris recognition are the three most common biometric identifiers for passenger authentication at the airport. In particular, facial recognition technology is preferred by airports and airlines thanks to its superiority in safety, hygiene, and speed.
Biometric technology can be adopted at certain stages or on the entire passenger journey at the airport. If applied across all stages, passengers only need to authenticate their identity once and experience a quick check-in process without having to present documents as many times as before.
Right from the check-in stage, passengers can register biometric data for the next check-in process. Some airports like Heathrow (UK) allow passengers to check-in online and provide biometric data by taking pictures of their faces and passports by their smartphones. Some other airports such as Narita International Airport (Japan) require passengers to check-in at dedicated biometric kiosks at the airport and also authenticate identity at the beginning with facial and passport pictures. These images act as a form of electronic passport, stored on the airport’s database and become the passenger’s identification data at the next stages.
During the check-in process at the airport, biometrics will automate passenger identity authentification based on stored electronic passport data. At stages where identity authentification is required such as bag drop, security check, immigration check, boarding, etc., cameras installed at these touchpoints will recognize passengers’ faces and compare with the images in the database, thereby authenticating the identity of the passenger within seconds. This biometric data can even be used to verify identities when passengers shop duty-free in the airport if the airport’s data system allows it.
In some cases, if the infrastructure at the arrival airport is suitable, biometric data can be shared with the arrival airports to help expedite the check-in process. If a passenger has previously used biometrics for bag drop, they can also verify their identity using this method for quicker and easier bag collection. In addition, border control points can also use this data to facilitate the immigration process of passengers.
Delivering a seamless experience for passengers
The normal check-in process at the airport can take from 1.5 to 3 hours or even longer for international flights. But with biometric technology, it only takes a few seconds for passengers to verify their identity at each touchpoint at the airport. As a result, the passenger experiences at the airport are greatly improved by not having to wait in line for hours in a crowded airport. According to Thales Group – a leading corporation providing technology services in the fields of aerospace, defense, transportation, and security, the above automated and secure check-in process at the airport can save up to 80% time for passengers.
The check-in process is also more convenient because travelers do not need to prepare and present too many documents – things that are easy to forget or lose and can affect the boarding process of passengers. Besides, thanks to a much faster check-in process, travelers can have more time to experience other activities at the airport such as dining and shopping.
Strengthening safety in the context of the pandemic
In particular, in the current context of the pandemic, direct interaction at touchpoints at the airport is one of the concerns about the risk of infection. Therefore, touchless technologies such as biometrics will be one of the useful solutions to this problem. The adoption of biometric technology will help reduce direct interactions between passengers and airport staff, reduce contact with personal items when passengers present documents many times, reduce interaction time at the touchpoints, and reduce interactions with surfaces prone to viruses. Therefore, the safety during check-in is improved and helps passengers to be more confident when using air services.