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Alaska Air considers biometrics for boarding


Alaska Airlines is exploring the use of passenger fingerprints as a way of replacing customer boarding passes, according to a report from Bloomberg.

In 2010, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air allowed an electronic boarding pass on mobile devices as an alternative option to a printed boarding pass.

As a next step, the company has been experimenting with testing fingerprint scanners as a way to streamline the airport experience from the initial check-in to the plane boarding. To start, it began testing biometric boarding passes in August on passengers in Seattle waiting to enter the airline’s premium lounge “The Boardroom”. This could lead Alaska Airlines to begin using fingerprint readers at the boarding door, baggage drop, and for inflight purchases.

Fingerprint scans could help make each step in boarding a plane more streamlined, and could reduce lines and wait times.

Yet there are some significant barriers to using this technology outside of Alaska Air’s passenger lounge, including convincing the Transportation Security Administration and airport authorities that the fingerprint scanner cannot be fooled, and that passenger data will remain private. This process would involve extensive government testing, independent review and a written proposal that is open to public comment.

And security continues to be a crucial factor in adoption. Privacy concerns grounded a plan to allow fingerprint scanning for domestic travellers at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2008.

While biometrics could make the airport faster and simpler, there could be significant delays in getting there.

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