SITA blog compares new EU biometric border control programs to existing systems

The new European Union border control systems will mean additional biometric information is collected for all eligible non-EU travelers, though we do not yet know how that will happen. While the principle is similar to other projects, the project will be different in having multiple member states that need to agree and engage the air travel industry to make it a success, according to a blog post by SITA ATS Head of Border Management Portfolio Peter Sutcliffe.

The European Union Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) are both scheduled for deployment in 2020. The EES complements existing EU systems, and extends the database of travelers beyond those requiring visas. The ETIAS involves an information exchange ahead of time, and is a little more complex, according to Sutcliffe, with non-visa travelers visiting the Schengen zone providing specific information to help identify themselves before they arrive at EU borders.

If successful, the programs will improve internal security, better prevent illegal immigration, reduce border delays, and provide information on visa overstays, the issue which has driven the biometric exit program in the United States.

Sutcliffe notes that SITA’s 2017 Passenger Survey shows 57 percent would use biometrics instead of a passport or boarding pass, and 55 percent already use automated ID control in the form of x-ray checks at departure gates. A third, however, expressed privacy concerns about biometric recognition at airport borders.

Ultimately, Sutcliffe compares the project to work done by SITA in Australia 20 years ago.
“What EES and ETIAS boils down to is greater security over who is entering the area and how long they are staying, which is no different from what other systems governments have been putting into place over the years,” he writes.

The European Council endorsed a mandate to develop a framework for interoperability of biometric data between the various border control systems earlier this year. SITA also recently called for secure sharing of biometric data between air travel stakeholders to optimize passenger experiences.

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