Travel TechnologyEmirates is first airline outside America to receive approval for biometric boarding from US Customs Border Protection

At some Emirates flights, your face is your passport

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Emirates expects to make biometric boarding available for all its US destinations by end-2019.

DUBAI – Passengers flying from Dubai to any of Emirates’ 12 destinations in the United States will soon be able to use facial recognition technology at the departure gates, reducing the time taken for identity checks to two seconds or less.

This was announced on Sept 23 by the Middle Eastern aviation giants, who became the first airline outside America to receive approval for biometric boarding from the United States Customs Border Protection (CBP).

Emirates currently flies to New York, Newark, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
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.

No pre-registration is required, and customers may also choose not to use the technology.

The system may not work for those who have not travelled to the US for a long time or whose images are not in CBP’s gallery, in which case they can simply approach the gate desks.

IS IT EFFECTIVE AND SAFE?
The technology was piloted at the departure gates of Emirates’ flights from Dubai to New York and Los Angeles through the peak periods in July and August. The results were encouraging with some flights achieving 100% biometric boarding and zero manual checks.

The airline expects to make biometric boarding available for all its US destinations by end-2019, once the equipment is in place.

Emirates says it does not store any biometric records of its customers – all the data is managed securely by CBP.

WHAT THEY SAY
“Safety and security will always remain our number one priority, as Emirates continues to explore and invest in innovative solutions for hassle-free travel that help our customers fly better,” said Dr Abdulla Al Hashimi, divisional senior vice president, Emirates Group Security.

“Our ultimate aim is to help our passengers travel paperless, without the need for passports and IDs. 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.

“We are talking with authorities of several countries to make security using facial recognition technology more acceptable and accessible.”

Mr John Wagner, CBP’s deputy executive assistant commission, said: “CBP has been working with our stakeholders like Emirates to build a simplified, but secure travel process that aligns with CBP’s and the travel industry's modernisation efforts.

“By comparing a traveller’s face to their passport or visa photo that was previously provided for the purpose of travel, we have streamlined identity verification that further secures and enhances the customer experience.”


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