Biometrics made its way into US passports almost a decade ago and have now been integrated into US airports. Currently, only 15 airports in the US have begun experimenting with biometrics such as ATL, BOS, JFK, LAX, DEN, and IAH for travelers going through customs. Moreover, these airports are working in conjunction with major airlines like Delta, Lufthansa, and British Airways to establish a fast and easy boarding system that would also require a simple scan of the face and quick photo to proceed to the plane.
Airports in Australia and UAE have already implemented the biometric system, as well as several in Europe. In five years, we should see most (if not all) airports in the US use biometrics as the main source of identifying travelers coming in and out.
One of the most interesting developments yet in the US is Delta’s biometric terminal in Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which is said to be launching by the end of this year. According to Delta, passengers flying aboard the carrier or its partners (Air France, Aeromexico, KLM or Virgin Atlantic Airways) will be able to:
• Check in at the self-service kiosks in the lobby
• Drop checked baggage at the counters in the lobby
• Serve as identification at the TSA checkpoint
• Board a flight at any gate in Terminal F
• Go through CBP processing for international travelers arriving into the U.S.
Even San Jose Airport (SJC) in California is working on becoming the first airport in the US to be completely biometric.
So why so we benefit from it? Airports that support biometrics will allow travelers to safely yet swiftly come in and out of the country, and board a plane much faster. Airlines can cut boarding in almost half the time it currently takes. Passengers can also forget pulling out their phones or boarding pass to check in. It’s a hands-free system that can make everyone’s lives much, much easier overall.
Biometrics is also more reliable than current methods deployed by passport control, which can’t always detect false documents. Moreover, biometrics will not only work for US citizens, but also for anyone holding a Visa or Resident Card, as all that information will already be stored in the system. Soon, maybe in ten years or so, your passport will just be a backup piece of Identification.
As the US is catching up with other parts of the world in terms of biometrics, it will be fascinating to see how fast it can be implemented, and how people will adapt to the new system and trust it.