Emirates first foreign airline to start biometric boarding for US flights
Dubai passengers to Emirates' 12 US destinations can use facial recognition tech at departure gates
Emirates will become the first airline outside the US to use biometric technology approved by immigration authorities, so passengers on flights to its 12 US routes can cut time for security checks to two seconds.
The airline got approval from the US Customs Border Protection (CBP) for the facial recognition checks at its departure gates and expects to make biometric boarding available for all its US destinations by year-end, Emirates said in a statement on Saturday. The carrier is in talks with other countries to make the technology more widely used.
"Our ultimate aim is to help our passengers travel paperless, without the need for passports and IDs," Abdulla Al Hashimi, divisional senior vice president at Emirates Group Security, said. "Biometric boarding is one more step in streamlining processes at our hub using digital technology, saving our customers time and giving them peace of mind."
The technology was first tested on departure gates for Emirates' flights bound to New York and Los Angeles during peak summer months of July and August. The results showed 100 per cent biometric boarding, meaning zero manual checks, amid efforts to speed up processing passengers at the airline's overcrowded Dubai hub.
"We are talking with authorities of several countries to make security using facial recognition technology more acceptable and accessible," Mr Al Hashimi said.
The way the biometric boarding works is that at the boarding gate, the system clicks the passenger's photo, which is matched against CBP's gallery in real-time to verify the person's identity in two seconds or less, according to Emirates. No pre-registration is required and passengers can opt out of using the technology.
Emirates does not store any biometric records of passengers– all the data is managed securely by CBP, it said.
The system may not work for those who haven't travelled to the US for a long time or whose images are not in CBP's gallery. In this case, passengers can head to the gate desks.
Dubai International airport has already taken steps to incorporate future technology, having rolled out a Smart Tunnel that allows selected travelers to use bio-metrics to complete passport control in 15 seconds or less.
Travelers are open to providing biometric data to help reduce waiting times in airport security lines, according to a survey by travel commerce platform Travelport.
A 2018 Global Digital Traveler Research survey, which questioned over 16,200 people about the role technology plays for them in travel plans, showed the majority of travelers would happily share bio-metric data to avoid lengthy immigration queues.
Updated: September 21, 2019 03:22 PM