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SITA says aviation industry on board with biometrics for single travel token


The air travel industry is working together toward a common goal of enabling all commercial air travel processes with a single facial biometric token, according to a blog post by SITA Air Travel Solutions Portfolio Director Sean Farrell.

Farrell shares his observations from a Passenger Experience Workshop at the recent SITA Innovation Forum, where the majority of airline and airport IT leaders acknowledged that IT developments and solutions will be impacted by the expectations of post-digital passengers, who have grown up with digital technology. SITA research suggests that 54 percent of IT decision makers see biometric travel tokens as being among the most beneficial technologies for passengers.

Trials of biometric boarding have loaded 240 passengers in roughly 15 minutes for a flight from Orlando International Airport to London Gatwick, and other trials have taken place in New Zealand, Qatar, and the U.S., with more trials coming online in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. Adoption will vary between regions, with for example European data privacy regulations potentially slowing down biometric system rollouts in the region, Farrell says.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is working on a digital travel credential derived from ePassports, which can be issued by governments and stored on users’ phones in a secure wallet. SITA is working with international non-profit the Sovrin Foundation on using blockchain technology to keep data under the control of users as they securely share it from mobile phones. The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s) OneID program is also cited as a program to address the challenge of how identity data is shared.

Trials of biometric technology at airports meanwhile continue to be launched at a rapid pace.

Gatwick deploys e-gates

London Gatwick Airport has deployed a set of biometric e-gates to speed up domestic departures with facial recognition, as part of a £1.11 billion (US$1.345 billion) infrastructure optimization project, Business Traveller reports.

The airport has also launched a new arrival process for domestic UK and Irish passengers, with a new dedicated baggage claim belt.

Digi Yatra expands

Biometric facial recognition will be tested for flight boarding by Vistara airline from its Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport, in cooperation with Delhi International Airport Pvt. Ltd. (DIAL), according to local outlet News 18.

Vistara expects to use biometric boarding for all of its flights from IGI by October. BIAL says the passenger biometrics and other data will be deleted within a few hours of each flight’s completion.
The plan is to eventually extend the system, which leverages the Civil Aviation Ministry’s Digi Yatra initiative, from Terminal 3 to other terminals and airlines for domestic flights.

One ID tests in Dubai successful

The test phase of the One ID system being trialed by Emirates airline and Dubai Airports for flights between London and Dubai has been successful enough to prompt consideration of eliminating the use of physical passports and printed travel documents, Arabian Business reports.

Internal trials were launched last year, and broader One ID trials are expected to begin later this year.

Stakeholders will attempt to improve the system’s performance with further tests carried out this year for check-in, passport control, duty-free shopping, and boarding processes. The airport has already reduced wait times by 28 percent, according to the report.

“Thanks to the tests we have proved that the technology works – that the concept of a single piece of identity shown in various locations works, and if we can make that work globally, that’s the intention,” says Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths.

Cathay Pacific data policy published

Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific has published a new privacy policy that makes clear its plans to collect and process images of passengers onboard aircraft, along with their use of in-flight entertainment systems and other entertainment services, Forbes reports.

No retention period is specified, though the new policy appears to have been drafted in response to an order by Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner to implement a data retention policy, according to Forbes. Cathay previously suffered a data breach impacting 9.4 million customers, and was served with an enforcement notice mandating eight actions.

The policy specifically refers to passenger “images captured via CCTV in our airport lounges and aircraft,” though the CCTV networks themselves are not detailed, and Cathay says it may harvest publicly available online information, such as from social media profiles.

Cathay provides supplemental guidelines for passengers from nine jurisdictions, and notes that U.S. passengers may have the right to direct the airline to stop selling their personal information.

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