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Emirates Airlines Successfully Pilots Biometric Boarding

In the ever-changing world of technology, companies have learnt to adapt new technologies as soon as possible to stay ahead of the competition and also to make the customer journey smoother. Emirates Airlines known for its high quality and standards, have been piloting biometric boarding during the busiest period of the year. In doing so, they become the first airline outside of America to have been approved by the U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) to go live with the modern boarding procedures.

Presumably July and August are the best time to test any new technology as no doubt it is the time it will really be put to the test. After 2 months of testing, Emirates will soon be implementing the technology for customers flying to any of the 12 U.S. destinations serviced by Emirates and plan to implement it by the end of the year. Results of the test were very encouraging according to Emirates; with some flights achieving 100 per cent biometric boarding.

How it Works

When passengers arrive at the boarding gate, they will have their photo taken and matched by CBP in real-time which will verify the passenger’s identity within two seconds. If a passenger hasn’t travelled to the U.S. before, the system will not work in which case the traditional boarding route may be taken by approaching the boarding desk. Should customers not wish to opt-in to the new option, they can choose to board as normal.

Dr Abdulla Al Hashmi, Senior Vice President for Emirates Group Security says:

Our ultimate aim is to help our passengers travel paperless, without the need for passports and IDs. Biometric boarding is one more step in streamlining processes at our hub using digital technology, saving our customers time and giving them peace of mind. We are talking with authorities of several countries to make security using facial recognition technology more acceptable and accessible.

No doubt the process will streamline boarding and which aids in the customer experience, but passengers may be concerned about their data.

Is My Data Safe?

Naturally, passengers will be concerned about their data being misused or stored by Emirates without permission. Emirates confirm that to use the service no pre-registration is required and neither does Emirates store any data. The data handling is managed by CBP. Though Emirates doesn’t give more details on the exact process, it is assumed that when the photo is taken, it is sent to CBP which matches and verifies the photo before confirming the passenger’s details. Once boarding is complete, the data is deleted. Dr Abdulla confirms the Emirates’ approach to data safety:

Safety and security will always remain our number one priority, as Emirates continues to explore and invest in innovative solutions for hassle-free travel that help our customers fly better.

John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commission from CBP adds:

CBP has been working with our stakeholders like Emirates to build a simplified, but secure travel process that aligns with CBP’s and the travel industry’s modernization efforts. By comparing a traveler’s face to their passport or visa photo that was previously provided for the purpose of travel, we have streamlined identity verification that further secures and enhances the customer experience.

Closing Thoughts

When travelling we all want a hassle-free and queue-free journey. In this regard the new procedure will help make boarding quick and pain-free, but limited to U.S. flights for now. One can see it being implemented by other nations and airlines in the near-future if the face recognition is up to par. On the other hand, data security will most likely be the only concern of passengers, though both Emirates and CBP assure us that data management is a priority. For more details you can read the Emirates press release by clicking here.

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