San Jose to become first all-biometric airport on U.S. West Coast for international travel

Mineta San Jose International Airport will become the first airport on the West Coast of the U.S. to identify every international traveller passing through the airport with facial biometrics for improved security and customer experience as part of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) biometric exit program.

The system was deployed for arrivals in June, and will travellers departing from any of seven gates will be screened with facial recognition technology starting in fall of 2018, according to the announcement. It joins Orlando International Airport, which also plans to complete it deployment in the fall, as the only airports with plan for both biometric entry and exit screening.

“We are solving an incredibly complex security mandate: a legislative requirement to take biometrics from departing visitors without creating gridlock and shutting down air travel,” John Wagner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, according to local CBS affiliate KPIX 5.

The airport says the simplified arrival process including biometric identity verification enables increased security, faster throughput, and better efficiency, which is needed to handle increasing international traffic, with arrivals more than doubling from less than 200,000 in 2015 to 438,800 in 2017. Passenger wait times have decreased by roughly 4 minutes

“As one of the nation’s main regions of innovation, Silicon Valley is at the forefront of transforming the travel experience through biometrics,” said CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “CBP is excited to partner with SJC, which serves as another example of what we can achieve by advancing the entry/exit mandate through public-private collaboration, adding benefits for travelers and stakeholders across the air travel ecosystem.”

“There was an officer, and we took our picture. That was the only time we took a picture. So I don’t know if that’s the new biometric (system) or not,” traveler James Dai told KPIX 5.

The biometric exit program remains controversial, and federal officials are considering adding rules for the airline and biometric industry partners handling passenger biometric data according to a recent report.

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