JFK Installs Facial Recognition for Boarding

In true sci-fi style, you’ll be able to use your face to board a plane. In other words, passengers will have access to ticketless boarding by using facial scanning.

In early October, a biometric self-boarding gate was installed at Lufthansa’s Terminal 1 gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport’s (JFK). Here are the details, courtesy of the New York Post.

Lufthansa has deployed the paperless, high-tech boarding process, which uses facial recognition technology to verify travelers with a photo capture, at its largest U.S. gateway at the Queens airport. Air France, Japan Airlines and Norwegian Airlines are expected to follow suit at the terminal, officials said.

The technology firm Vision Box has partnered with Customs and Border Protection on facial screening or “biometric boarding” technology, which officials say is faster and more secure, but has privacy advocates expressing concerns.

How it works

The digital boarding process validates the eligibility of a traveler without having to present a passport or boarding pass. When a passenger approaches a self-boarding gate, a biometric-enabled camera integrated in the gate captures the passenger’s facial image. That image is then securely sent to US Customs’ Traveler Verification Service, which “conducts a matching process with the stored digital facial token captured at the initial immigration process or from the US passport,” according to Vision-Box.

Within seconds, the system reconciles the passenger identity and his or her eligibility to enter the flight. The positive match of both verifications triggers the eGate doors to open and the passenger can board the airplane.

It’s not the first time biometric boarding has been used at JFK Airport. Last year, JetBlue rolled out its first biometric self-boarding gate for customers flying to select international destinations at JFK Airport’s Terminal 5. A slew of US airports already offers biometric boarding.

“It’s become crucial for airports and airlines to adopt biometric capabilities along the processes which require interaction with the traveler, therefore enhancing and scaling operational capacity for growing quicker within their existing footprint,” said Miguel Leitmann, the CEO and founder of Vision-Box, which brought the new boarding method to Terminal 1 through a partnership with US Customs and Border Protection and Terminal One Group Association.

New technology raises questions

Experts from the American Civil Liberties Union say that despite the technology starting to roll out at more airports nationwide, many questions remain unanswered.

“How is this information going to be collected? How long will it be retained? Will it be used in other ways and shared with federal agencies like the FBI?” said Neema Singh Guliani, Senior Legislative Counsel for the ACLU.

Customs and Border Protection officials say that the biometric data of U.S. travelers is not stored for long periods of time.

Connected aircraft coming soon

The new technology comes amidst the news that Airbus is experimenting with a new “connected” airplane that would track everything people do on a plane, including how often passengers use the bathroom. Executives think this is the cabin of the future, full of sensors that collect data on the on-board habits of its passengers.

In early September, Airbus commenced in-flight trials of IoT (Internet of Things) connected cabin technologies on board an A350-900 Flight Lab aircraft. In doing so, Airbus becomes the first aircraft manufacturer to undertake such flight-testing of actual connected cabin innovations. The platform, known as the Airspace Connected Experience, was unveiled at APEX Expo last year. While it has yet to be introduced to real passengers, the technology will usher in a new personalized experience for passengers, in particular this covers pre- and remote ordering of preferred meals, booking of private bin space, setting of individual seat positions as well as a tailor-made inflight entertainment (IFE) offer.

The goal is to gather data on passenger behavior and consumption on board, information that could save airlines money and relieve pain points on board for passengers such as the mad scramble for overhead bin space and lavatory queues.

Source: New York Post