British Airways Trials Biometric Technology at Four U.S. Airports

Photo: British Airways

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British Airways is trialling biometric technology to speed up boarding and arrivals processes in Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

Customers are breezing through new biometric boarding gates at Orlando International Airport, with the airline managing to board flights of almost 240 customers in around ten minutes.

Working in partnership with the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and technology partner SITA, British Airways is the first and only airline to use this particular technology to board international flights.

Customers in Orlando are joining those flying with British Airways from Los Angeles who have been praising the new biometric boarding process since November 2017. The gates in Los Angeles Airport, used by British Airways, have resulted in the airline boarding more than 400 customers in only 22 minutes – less than half the time it takes when not using this technology.

The biometric boarding gates remove the need for travellers to present their boarding pass and passport at the departure gate, simplifying and speeding up boarding.

The new technology, from SITA, creates­ a smoother and quicker journey for customers. They simply look into a camera prior to boarding, wait for their biometric data to be verified, and walk onto the aircraft. ­

Similar to facial identification built into mobile phones, the biometric e-Gates use high-definition camera technology, and allow customers to pass through by recognising their unique facial features and matching them with the passport, visa or immigration photos.

Security is at the core of biometric facial technology, and British Airways has been working closely in partnership with US Customs and Border Protection to ensure strict adherence to privacy rules and regulations.

Two biometric gates have been installed on one stand at Orlando International Airport and during the trial, British Airways customers flying on the daily BA2036 flight to Gatwick are able to use the new technology. Customer service agents will still be on hand to help travellers during boarding should they require it.

The biometric boarding trials in Orlando and Los Angeles add to technology already in use by British Airways on its domestic UK flights from its hub at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

Meanwhile, customers on select British Airways flights from Heathrow to Miami and New York, JFK are benefitting from a similar biometric trial, but this time when they arrive in the US, which is making the arrivals process faster and easier.

The system uses facial recognition technology to verify a customer’s identity and this automatically links the customer to any records already held in the CBP systems. This simple process means that there is no need for travel documents to be swiped or customers to go through fingerprinting. The aim is to vastly reduce the time customers spend in arrivals queues.

Carolina Martinoli, British Airways’ director of brand and customer experience, said: “British Airways is pioneering the use of biometric technology to benefit customers by simplifying and speeding up their journey through the airport, as part of our £4.5 billion investment programme.

“We’re using technology that consumers are now familiar with and trust because it delivers a convenient, reliable and secure experience.

“Our latest trial with SITA in Orlando is helping us to reduce the time it takes to board our aircraft, and early indications are that using biometrics for arrivals has huge potential too. These trials will help us to evolve the technology and processes we use to best suits the needs of our customers.”

Diana Einterz, SITA President, Americas, said: “SITA has partnered with British Airways to deliver a great customer experience using sophisticated technologies. We have combined the various airline boarding checks along with the US border checks into one simple step. British Airways customers simply look at a camera and within seconds are approved to board. It is secure and seamless travel in action today.”

Source: British Airways Press Release