Passport-free international travel? Boarding a flight might soon involve little more than posing for a photo

2018-12-03 16:30 - Marisa Crous
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A young man looks on in an airport

(Photo: iStock)

New advancements in facial recognition is now making check-in a seamless process from curb to gate. 

Moving through security at airports can take a while - hopping from counter to counter and check-in staff to official. But the entire process is being streamlined across the globe with planned facial recognition systems.

Forbes reported that airports tech specialists SITA recently compiled a report saying 77% of airports and 71% of airlines are in the works with R&D in biometric ID systems to be rolled out at their airports within the next 5 years.

Earlier this year, Sydney Airport partnered with Qantas, launching a facial recognition system trailed by a group of passengers. 

And recently, a biometric terminal was launched at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the States. The first in the US, this service is offered to passengers travelling non-stop from Atlanta with Delta.

READ: Say goodbye to your passport: Biometric airports across the world 

This tech will also be implemented in Detroit in 2019.

This means a customer journey where your unique features and fingerprints will act as your passport. The check-in process will entail facial scanning machines activated at self-service kiosks, self-help baggage drop-off counters, and an immigration checkpoint as faces will be scanned and remain on file with the Customs and Border Protection, says Travel and Leisure

Not as advanced in terms of facial recognition, but Accra's recently opened Terminal 3 at Kotoka International Airport has launched I-validate technology (a system that electronically validates your boarding pass before heading into security check), which already eliminates a step in the check-in process, making travel more hassle-free. 

airport, Ghana

(I-validate stations found at Kotoka International Airport, Accra. PHOTO: iStock) 

READ: From Istanbul to Accra: New airports and terminals that launched in 2018 - plus planned projects for 2019 

However convenient this technology sounds, it is contested. 

To reach a universal agreement on how the human info, like finger prints and facial recognition data, will be used, is a massive concern.  

For now, the proposed strategy is that you can choose to opt in or out. CN Traveler report that only those passengers "who agree to participate approach a camera or kiosk, get their picture taken, and then, once their identity is confirmed against stored images like passport photos or visa photos, proceed to the plane".  

In SA? 

Since 2015 the South African Department of Home Affairs has embarked on a modernisation programme that states as its ultimate aim “ capture biometrics for all travellers upon arrival and departure from the Republic at all ports of entry.”

Called the enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS), the programme started out in Lanseria International Airport in 2015 and was extended to OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International Airports. Since then, great strides have been made with the subsequent launch on 16 May of the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), which will be rolled out over the next five years. 

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