Five ways Biometrics are Improving the Passenger Experience

June 27, 2021

Airport passengers have long prized the ability to get from curb to gate as smoothly and quickly as possible. At a time when social distancing and minimizing physical contact have become essential, and security and border checks have become more stringent, this is especially challenging. In theory, both requirements could introduce additional friction to the airport experience.

Fortunately, new technology is helping the industry respond. Biometric identity has the potential to revolutionize the airport journey, making it a simple, smooth and document-free experience from check-in to boarding. 

With a growing number of airports starting to deploy biometric solutions, many travellers are already starting to see benefits. Here are five:

1. Saying goodbye to manual document checks 

By now all travellers are familiar with their airport 'mental checklists' - top of which would rank passports and boarding passes. Easy to lose and yet impossible to travel without, documentation is the single most important item today.  

Consider how many times a boarding pass is pulled out from the traveller's pocket during an average airport experience. From check-in to bag drop, pre-security, immigration, duty free, lounge and boarding, paper documents must be kept to hand for at least six separate interactions. For many of us, this has led to moments of panic or frustration searching for a passport buried at the bottom of a rucksack whilst holding up a queue of fellow travellers. 

Yet, with an end-to-end biometric deployment it is possible for passengers to navigate the entire airport without taking their hands out of their pockets. When approaching a check-in desk or bag drop unit, their face can become both their passport and their boarding pass, increasing speed and convenience while avoiding lengthy queues at check points. 

2. Simplicity of enrollment

Whether passengers choose to enroll prior to their journey or at the airport, the process is simple and pain-free. On their smart phones passengers can scan their passport, take a selfie and enter their details, after which they will be recognized at service points at the terminal. 

3. Rapid boarding

One of the most noticeable ways in which biometrics transform the passenger experience is during the boarding process. In less than two seconds from approaching the gate, they can be on their way to the plane, making queues and manual document scans a thing of the past. 

The process is more efficient, too. In the background the departure control system, which handles all passenger information, is automatically updated without the need for manual intervention. 

With biometric solutions already tested and deployed across four continents, these are also proven benefits. In Slovenia's Ljubljana airport, the boarding process became 75% faster. At Fort Lauderdale in Miami, Spirit Airlines now boards passengers in under two seconds; and during a successful trial, Lufthansa completed boarding of an 853 seat A380 aircraft in just 20 minutes. 

4. Increased confidence when travelling

Increases in speed and accuracy are welcome, but from the perspective of the passenger this must be married to hygiene and safety - the good news is that biometric self-service can improve both. A touchless experience increases overall hygiene and passengers can feel secure in the knowledge that other members of their flight have been through the same stringent biometric identification process. 

5. Smoothing the impact of disruption 

Using automated systems also provides the passenger with the smoothest possible experience – even in disruption scenarios. Take the example of a seat or flight changing. As the passenger, there's no need to locate a help desk, queue up, and print off another boarding pass with the help of an agent. You can simply continue using the same passenger process and self-service points allowing the automated system to do the work. 

The benefits of this technology are set to continue in the future too, with the goal of increased passenger personalization at self-service touchpoints also within sight. In fact, we foresee travellers using biometric identity across the entire trip, to reduce friction when hiring a car or checking in at the hotel. In each scenario, the traveller can be quickly and reliably identified and that empowers travellers to take greater control of their own experience if they choose. 

Content courtesy of Amadeus