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Comfort, safety, simplicity: how biometric identification is changing operations of airports

How biometric identification is changing the way airports work— RecFaces

Biometric identification is a fundamental vector for the development of modern airports. Airlines and air harbors around the world are actively working on its implementation. How is biometrics changing the world of air travel, and why the future of aviation cannot be imagined without it? Let's dive into it.

Table of Contents

Why do airports need biometric identification?
Passengers comfort
Increasing airport capacity
Additional income for airports
How does it work?
Baggage check-in
Preflight inspection
Border control
A “seamless” journey

Why do airports need biometric identification?

Passengers comfort

Endless queues, several stages of control, the need to arrive at the airport several hours before departure — all this annoys even the most dedicated travel fans. Most airlines today provide customers with online check-in options. However, going through all airport formalities is still a tedious and time-consuming process.

Biometric identification does not require multiple presentation of your passport and boarding pass. The path from the entrance to the airport terminal to the seat of the aircraft becomes as fast and comfortable as possible.

Biometrics also make it easier for passengers to stay in airport business lounges. With the help of facial recognition technology, it is possible not only to control customer access to the business lounge, but also to individualize the approach to their service. After the passenger has been identified, the system will automatically notify the employee of his arrival, as well as provide the necessary information. For example, it will tell you what drinks and dishes he prefers. Or it will display information about his flight on the nearest monitor. That is why we can talk about biometrics as an effective tool for improving the airline's image and increasing the level of customer loyalty.

Increasing airport capacity

For the air harbors themselves, the introduction of biometrics is not just a tool for increasing reputation, but a vital necessity. According to the forecast of The International Air Transport Association (IATA), in the next 20 years, global passenger traffic at the airports could double and reach 7.8 billion people. The coronavirus has certainly hit the commercial aviation industry. But as the pandemic fades away, these losses will be compensated, and in the near future the passenger turnover will start to grow again.

Biometric screening systems are the only chance for airports to cope with the increasing load, eliminate queues and avoid a global capacity crisis.


As key transport hubs, airports contribute to the fight against crime, terrorism and illegal migration. Biometric identification helps not only to protect airport passengers, but also to improve the level of international security in general.

For pre-flight security and boarding, identification by QR codes on boarding passes is also used.

However, the passport can always be forged, and the QR code can be transferred to a third party. Unlike documents, a person's biometric data is inalienable. The face cannot be kidnapped, faked, or “borrowed”.

Another effective way to improve airport security is video surveillance systems with face recognition technology. In 2020, RecFaces partnered with Pelco to implement a biometric identification project at Nairobi International Airport (Kenya). The VxFaces face recognition module, integrated with the Pelco VideoXpert video surveillance system, allows you to quickly identify an unwanted person in the passenger flow. For example, a wanted criminal or a potential terrorist.

Speaking of safety, it is also worth noting that the airport is not only passengers, but also thousands of employees and service stuff. The use of face recognition technology makes it possible to effectively delimit access to office premises and prevent illegal entry into secure facilities by persons who do not have the right to do so.

Additional income for airports

Optimizing the time spent on pre-flight formalities also increases airports' non-aviation revenues. The faster the passenger passes all the stages of control, the more time he has to visit restaurants or shop in duty free. The emotional factor also plays an important role. So, in 2016, the experts of the Airports Council International (ACI) found that an increase in passenger satisfaction with pre-flight procedures by 1% increases the income of airport shops and cafes by 1.5%.

How does it work?

Let's consider at what stages of pre-flight control at the airport biometric identification can be used.

Baggage check-in

Baggage check-in is one of the most time-consuming procedures at the airport. Airports are trying to solve this problem with the help of self-check-in counters. The integration of biometric technologies into their work allows you to further speed up the process. Delta Air Lines was the first to introduce “biometric” baggage machines at the Minneapolis airport in 2017. And, according to the airline, with the help of the new system, passengers were able to check in their luggage twice as fast.

Preflight inspection

Biometric technologies allow you to automate the passage of passengers to the “sterile” area of the airport and the process of boarding the plane. The face recognition function on e-gates is responsible for identifying a person. You do not need to present your boarding pass or ID card.

Border control

The need for border control forces passengers to plan ahead additional time to stay at the airport. After all, you never know how much time and nerves it will take to get the long-awaited stamp in the passport.

The solution to the problem is automated border control systems equipped with a facial recognition system. Such a checkpoint includes a digital passport reader, biometric devices, and an electronic pass system. Before passing the control, a person must submit their biometric data (in advance for the national database or directly at the airport). When passing the control, the system compares the biometrics of the passenger with the data of the owner of the document presented to them.

An advanced migration control system with biometrics for the face and iris was launched at the end of 2020 at Dubai International Airport. This made it possible to reduce the time of the passenger's passage through the checkpoint to 5-9 seconds.

A “seamless” journey

As we have seen, biometric identification can be effectively used at all stages of pre-flight control. But the concept of “seamless” travel has the greatest prospects today. It provides for full automation of the entire complex of airport formalities using biometrics.

Upon arrival at the airport, the passenger takes their biometric photo at the self-check-in counter. The system compares the resulting image with the data of the biometric passport and assigns a temporary electronic marker to the person. With it, you can check your luggage, get into the “sterile” zone and on board of the plane, as well as pass border control. At all stages, the passenger's face becomes the only “identity card”.

Today, the concept of “seamless” travel is being developed by the largest airports in the United States, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Asia. In April 2021, the results of an experiment to introduce biometric identification at Istanbul Airport were published. The project was implemented by the developer company SITA and Turkish Airlines. The technology combines the SITA AirportConnect access platform for self-check-in, e-gates with facial recognition technology, a system for contactless access to the waiting room and boarding on the flight. Biometric control accelerated the passage of airport formalities by 30%, and was positively received by passengers. In addition, the contactless principle of the technology made it possible to reduce the risks of the spread of COVID-19.

Biometric identification is changing the way airports work and travel in general. In the near future, facial recognition technology will be used in most of the world's major air harbors. Boarding passes, passports and endless queues will become a thing of the past, and flights will become safer and much more comfortable for passengers.

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