Sydney Airport trials facial recognition to ease passenger pain

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July 05, 2018
facial recognition Sydney Airport
A Qantas facial recognition check-in kiosk at Sydney Airport. Photo: Sydney Airport.

Sydney Airport is facing the future in more ways than one as it begins a trial of sophisticated biometrics aimed at improving the way passengers move through its facilities.

The airport is working with Australian carrier Qantas to trial facial recognition technology to give passengers a “couch-to-gate” experience.

Once fully tested, officials say, passengers will be able to complete most stages of their journey through the airport using their face as their access identification.

The initial phase of the trial will test the facial recognition technology in four key steps in the passenger journey: check-in, bag drop, lounge access and boarding. Additional steps proposed for future trials include mobile check-in and automated border processing.

The trial will involve Qantas international passengers but for now they will still need to use their boarding passes and border security will remain unchanged.

Participating passengers also need to consent to the trial, which promises it will adhere to the strictest privacy standards and comply with all relevant legislation.

A Sydney Airport spokeswoman said the trial at this stage was about data collection and matching and the manual system would run alongside the new system so the latter could be validated.

“Over time, the trial is collecting data of the selected Qantas passengers and moving them through that process so we can see where there are additional things that need to happen and also getting feedback from customers,’’ she said.

facial recognition Sydney Airport.
Smile as you drop your bags. Photo: Sydney Airport.

Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert said the test was the most extensive biometrics trial to date and part of a broader focus on investing in technology to make the airport experience easier and more convenient for passengers.

“We’ve worked with Qantas from the outset and are delighted to be partnering with them as we trial this technology,’’ he said

“In the future, there will be no more juggling passports and bags at check-in and digging through pockets or smartphones to show your boarding pass – your face will be your passport and your boarding pass at every step of the process.”

Qantas Chief Customer Officer Vanessa Hudson said there was an increasing need for airlines and airports to offer faster and more convenient airport experiences.

“Qantas customers will not only be able to check in for their flight using the technology, it is also available for our lounge staff who can create a more personalized experience when passengers arrive,” she said.

A number of airports globally have been investigating facial recognition as a way of boosting throughput and making life easier for passengers.

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The Airports Council International and the International Air Transport Association are working together on a range of projects to make the system more efficient and effective and allow to cope with strong growth in the sector.

These include the New Experience in Travel and Technologies (NEXTT) project looking at how the industry and government can work together to take advantage of new and emerging technologies to make airport processes smoother, faster and cheaper.