Air Travel

Friday Sound-Off: Will Biometrics Revolutionize Air Travel?

If you have done any international traveling, you are probably familiar enough with the customs and immigration process and you are no stranger to the long lines that often accompany that process.  I don’t think anyone in this world enjoys having to go thru the tedious customs and immigration process after having just gotten off of a long haul flight, but most travelers also understand the importance of such security measures.

If you were secretly hoping that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) would come up with a more convenient and streamlined process to move people thru the customs and immigration process, then I have some really great news for you.  They have been working very hard to do just that, and some very big changes are just around the corner.

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The TSA recently released its roadmap for using biotechnology as part of the customs and immigration process in the coming years.  The CBP has been using facial recognition software for non-US citizens on international flights since 2015.  So this technology has been in use at airports for almost 5 years now but hasn’t gotten a lot of media attention because it has been used in such a limited capacity.

However, in the last twelve months or so the TSA has begun using this technology in select airports for US citizens traveling on international flights as well.  One such airport is Jackson-Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, which was the first US Airport to adopt biometrics technology.  They have been using testing fingerprint biometric technology since June of 2017.

However, future plans are in the works for expanding the use of even more biometric technologies to more airports, more flights throughout the country.  The plan is to start using facial recognition technology to expedite the customs and immigration process, then expand that technology to an increasing number of airports.  The technology would first be used to verify international travelers on international flights, then for TSA Pre-Check passengers that are US citizens.  Ultimately, the technology will be used by all passengers on international flights coming into the US.  Eventually, this technology could even be used to verify domestic travelers on domestic flights.

My understanding is that biometrics may be used to streamline your entire experience when flying in the future.  This includes everything from ticketing, to baggage check , to immigration and customs, all the way to actually boarding the plane.   For instance, I have included a flowchart below that outlines what your future airport experiences may look like.

Biometrics Chart.png

You use a facial recognition kiosk in the ticketing area to check-in for your flight.
You drop off your baggage at the bag drop where facial recognition confirms your identity.
When going thru Immigration and Customs, both facial recognition and a finger print scanning is used to confirm your identity and clear you.
Facial recognition is used to self-board yourself on to your plane.


So my question to you is what are your thoughts on this technology and the plans to use it increasingly in our customs and immigration system?  Does the convenience of the process outweigh any privacy concerns that you might have?  Do you have any other concerns about this process?  Do you think the use of this technology will become so widespread that it revolutionizes air travel?

I will be honest with you.  I am one that really does not enjoy lines and I am absolutely thrilled at the thought of using this technology.  I was one of the first to sign-up for Global Entry when it became available, and I absolutely love the expedited entry.  To me, that was easily worth the $100 fee and going thru the hassle of the interview and background check to get it.  I feel much the same about this.  Any inconvenience or privacy concerns I might have are greatly outweighed by the increased convenience this technology promises to provide.  But that is just my two-cents.

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