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From Facial Scans to ID Checks – Face Recognition is the Future of Airport Security

Author: Soban K | 13 Feb 2024

After the COVID-19 pandemic, passengers became more comfortable in travelling as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (C.B.P) implemented contactless biometric systems such as facial recognition. In 2018, C.B.P started ramping up the technology in a program “Simplified Arrival,” after following instructions from Congress during the 9/11 attack to improve border safety by using biometrics. C.B.P. selected facial verification amongst other biometric measurements such as fingerprints and iris scans.

Biometric facial recognition system uses advanced algorithms and compares an image taken live at a border checkpoint or airport immigration to the passenger’s visa or passport to improve airport security. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is working to ensure that travellers safely and quickly get on planes. 

Key Takeaways

  • Facial recognition technology smoothens the check-in process of passengers by creating a unified digital ID and lessens their waiting time. 
  • TSA ensures a swift and safe traveller onboarding process by leveraging biometric technologies. 
  • TSA also focuses on ensuring passenger privacy and consent-based facial recognition systems at airports. 
  • C.B.P aims to implement face recognition technology to improve airport security

7 Ways to Provide Frictionless Passenger Experience at Airport Security

Face recognition technology should provide a frictionless, secure, and personalised passenger experience in the following ways: 

Ensure Accurate and Fast Self-Service Ticketing Process

5 out of 10 US airports are considered one of the busiest in the world. A total of 410 million passengers got their IDs checked manually. 4/18 Wait in the queue at self-service kiosks that only scan the ID rather than passengers. C.B.P. streamlined the check-in process by introducing facial recognition services to improve airport security. 

Biometric verification systems can accurately and quickly authenticate a passenger’s identity by just doing a scan, creating a unified and unique digital ID that provides frictionless and fast check-in to travellers. This also compares them against flight manifests and security watchlists to secure everyone and reduce waiting times.  

Make Bag Drop Easy, Fast, & Secure 

Dropping bags is a time-consuming process, and every traveller who uses a check-in kiosk faces the question of airport staff, “Is this bag yours?”. They ask questions just to check if the user is real or fake. Biometric boarding makes it easy to recognise the actual user and ensures the authenticity of travellers by comparing luggage with baggage tags. Face recognition system helps baggage handlers by reducing their checking time of IDs to improve airport security. 

Make the Security Screening Process Effective & Quick

Many passengers at airports have to wait in long queues to go through the screening process. At big airports, the average waiting and screening time is 16 minutes. Specifically when the alert status changes from yellow to orange and red. By installing face verification systems, waiting time is reduced to less than 1 second to provide accurate and quick identity verification and authentication, so few employees can screen more travellers in less time. 

Let Passengers Enjoy Their Waiting Time

At the airport, the face recognition system fastens the boarding process, enhancing the passenger experience. Travellers can have more time to relax, shop at the airport, and dine in, making waiting time more enjoyable. 

For airport security, face recognition systems are also installed at retailer payment systems and restaurants, allowing passengers to have fraud-free purchasing. Airport eye scan allows VIP frequent flyer lounges that quickly identify the scam.

For airport security, walk-up kiosks provide customised information, including distance to gates, updated flight times, and the remaining time for dining or shopping. These kiosks direct passengers to the next point in a short time period. 

Speed Up The On-Boarding Procedure

Face recognition speeds up the passenger onboarding procedure by expediting and streamlining the conventional time-intensive process. The airport staff can effectively handle documentation, administrative tasks, and training modules, ensuring an error-free and swift passenger onboarding process through the streamlined incorporation of a face recognition system. 

Biometric boarding reduces HR personnel burden and improves the onboarding journey’s overall efficiency, permitting employees to contribute productively and assimilate into their roles from day one. Face recognition provides an engaging and positive system for employers and employees. 

Eliminate Long Immigration Queues

Accurate identification is essential for public and airport security as traditional procedures are usually stressful or slow and typically lag in providing authentic figures. Biometric face recognition technology makes digital IDs of passengers rather than any boarding pass and improves their experience by making the immigration procedure safer, more secure, and faster. 

Minimize Luggage Collection Hassle 

Advanced face recognition technology made passengers’ trips memorable and secure by returning their relevant luggage to them. The US Transportation Department reported that the mishandled luggage ratio has fallen since the implementation of the biometric system. Facia recognition software monitors luggage claims, identifies predators, and deters thefts using recorded or live video streams. The baggage claim system is cost-effective as it reduces the necessity of safety personnel to monitor the claimed areas. 

Streamline the Check-In Process with an Innovative Approach to Airport Security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is implementing face recognition technology to improve airport security. Passengers have to authenticate themselves by just looking at the camera, and the system will automatically verify them in less than one second by comparing their current image with the stored one in the database.

In 2021, The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) published that it ensures the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards to be followed in passenger’s safety, privacy and convenience. According to these standards:

  • Biometrics will not be used for surveillance by law enforcement or any other authority as facial recognition’s purpose is to automate the existing manual ID checking process.
  • Passengers who do not consent to facial recognition technology will receive an alternate ID check by Transport security officers (TSOs) at the checking podium.
  • TSA ensures the use of advanced face-matching algorithms developed by top vendors according to the NIST guidelines to ensure the highest levels of accuracy and mitigate the effects of varying environmental conditions in facial recognition.

 The International Air Transport Association (IATA) promotes a fast travel program, providing self-service options to passengers, including boarding and check-in, using face recognition technology. Airports around the world are making an effort to implement face recognition systems to provide seamless ticketless identification. 

Facia Provides a Frictionless & Secure Travel Experience

Facia’s biometric verification solution makes passenger onboarding seamless. Facia has made passengers’ faces as their boarding pass helps smooth check-in and reduce dependency on physical documents.

For airport security, Facia’s face recognition technology compares the passenger features against criminal watchlists and alerts security if there is any sign of spoofing. Fraud and identity theft can be reduced by ensuring that the traveler is the person they claim to be. 

Do you want to eliminate spoofing attacks and be one step ahead of criminals? Get Facia Free Trial


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I opt out of biometric verification at the airport?

In most cases, yes. Passengers have the option to decline biometric boarding and facial recognition. Airports and airlines usually provide alternative methods for identity verification, such as presenting a passport or other ID documents. It's always recommended to check with the specific airline or airport for their policies before your flight.

What airlines use facial recognition?

Several airlines have adopted facial recognition technology, including Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, British Airways, and JetBlue. They use it for boarding and security checks to improve efficiency and security.

Is AI used in airport security?

Yes, AI is used in airport security for various purposes, including threat detection, baggage screening, monitoring passenger behavior, and enhancing cybersecurity. AI helps improve efficiency, accuracy, and response times in identifying potential security threats.

Why are airports using facial recognition?

Airports use facial recognition to streamline the boarding process, enhance security, and improve passenger experience. It speeds up identity verification, reduces queues, and minimizes the need for physical documentation.

What is the biggest problem in facial recognition?

The biggest challenge with facial recognition is accuracy, especially regarding bias. These systems can have higher error rates for certain demographics, leading to misidentification and potential discrimination.

What are future threats to aviation security?

Future threats to aviation security include:

  • Cyberattacks on airport systems and aircraft
  • Use of drones for malicious activities
  • Insider threats from airport staff
  • Advanced explosives and weaponry evading detection
  • Bioterrorism
  • Increasing reliance on digital technology leading to data breaches and system manipulations
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