31 May 2017

JetBlue tests facial recognition technology to ease boarding process, while Delta tests fingerprints

JetBlue Airways passengers flying from Boston to Aruba can participate in a test of a self-boarding process using facial recognition technology.

Participation is voluntary, and no prior enrollment or registration is required.

If the test is successful, it will show how security can be enhanced at the same time the boarding process, too often a pain point, is made “simple and seamless” for the passenger.

JetBlue is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and SITA on the project to test the new paperless and deviceless process.

Customers who opt in can put away their boarding passes and devices and step up to a custom-designed camera station. A photo will be taken, and the station will connect to CBP to match the image to passport, visa or immigration photos in the CBP database and verify flight details.

An integrated screen above the camera will let passengers know when they are cleared to proceed to the jet bridge.

JetBlue crewmembers, armed with iPad minis, will be able to interact with customers and assist them if necessary.

SITA, an airline IT company that provides communications and border security solutions, is providing the technology and connectivity to perform facial capture and integration with the CBP database as well as integration with JetBlue’s departure control system.

Jim Peters, SITA’s chief technology officer, said the project is the first integration of biometric authorization by the CBP with an airline and may prove to be a solution that will be “quick and easy to roll out across US airports.”

“Self-boarding eliminates boarding pass scanning and manual passport checks,” added Joanna Geraghty, executive vice president of customer experience at JetBlue. “Just look into the camera and you’re on your way.”

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines, which a few weeks ago began testing whether facial recognition technology can speed bag checking, is now testing the use of fingerprints for several processes at Washington National Airport.

Phase 1 of the test, currently under way, allows participants to check into the Delta Sky Club using a fingerprint. Phase 2 would also allow them to check a bag and board a flight using a fingerprint.

Participants are required to be members of the SkyMiles frequent flyer program and the CLEAR Expedited Airport Security program.