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UK airport facial recognition ePassport gates to become available to non-Europeans

Use of the ePassport gates at UK airports will become available to travelers from several countries outside of the EU to reduce airport lineups with facial biometrics, The Independent reports.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced the change as part of a budget speech, after UK airlines complained that wait times at immigration checkpoints this summer were unacceptably long. Data sourced by Virgin Atlantic indicated that the UK Border Force target of processing 95 percent of non-EEA passengers within 45 minutes was met on only a single day during July.

The gates, which use facial recognition technology, are currently only available to holders of UK, EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss biometric passports who are over 18 years old. They will soon be available to travelers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

“Extending the use of ePassport gates to citizens of trusted allies is great news for the customer experiences at our international gateways,” comments Airport Operators Association CEO Karen Dee. “We are pleased to see that Government has listened to the concerns of airlines and airports about the deteriorating border experience in recent years with this announcement. It could be transformational for those airports with high numbers of arrivals from those countries.”

Heathrow Airport is planning to roll out curb-to-gate biometrics in the summer of 2019 to cut passenger processing time by up to a third as biometric deployments at airports continue to expand.

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