First American biometric boarding trial starts in LA

December 10, 2018
facial recognition at LAX. Photo: American Airlines.

American Airlines has started its first-ever biometric boarding trial at Los Angeles International Airport as a possible prelude to wider use of the technology in its global network.

American customers traveling on select international departures from LAX Terminal 4 will be able to use the one-step facial recognition program that aims to streamline the boarding process.

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The system scans a customer and then verifies that passenger’s identity with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in seconds at the gate.

“LAX is American’s gateway to the Asia-Pacific region, making it the perfect location for American to launch biometric boarding,” said American’s Los Angeles senior vice president, Suzanne Boda.

“The goal of the new technology is to provide a more efficient, modern experience for our customers and team members while enhancing aviation security.

“That is exactly what we’ve been working to do here in Los Angeles.”

When customers begin the boarding process, the facial recognition program will scan an image of their face and send it to an existing cloud-based CBP database.

The system then instantly matches the image against the passport photo already on file with CBP and sends back a yes or no determination on whether they are cleared to board within seconds at the gate.

The airline said agents would continue to ensure customers have their passports with them before departing. Passengers could also choose not to use the new system and board with their regular boarding pass.

It said it would conduct the trial for 90 days as it evaluated its potential expansion to other flights and locations across its network.

Airlines and airports around the world are testing biometric recognition as a way of increasing throughput and reducing the pain at choke points such as passport control and boarding.

They also need to look at new ways of processing passengers to cope with burgeoning growth.

Read: Global airline passengers to exceed current world population.

Orlando International Airport announced in June this year it would become the first airport in the US to fully deploy biometric technology across all international gates.

It expected to have the system operating across 64 boarding lanes and 30 international gates by October after inking a deal with technology company SITA to provide its Smart Path biometric technology.

American’s alliance partner, British Airways, in 2017 became the first airline to trial biometric boarding on flights into and out of the US with self-service biometric boarding gates on international flights from Los Angeles.