Spirit Airlines and SITA talk biometrics for air travel reopening, Houston and Hawaii announce deployments
As the aviation industry seeks a way to restart safely and win the confidence of the traveling public, Spirit Airlines is testing biometrics to reduce touchpoints that could lead to virus transmission, and planning to launch self bag drop and self bag tag services, Simple Flying writes.
Simple Flying notes that a report by Fast Future, Future Travel Experience (FTE), and the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) says 77.4 percent of industry stakeholders expect the adoption of touchless biometrics to verify passenger identity will increase. Collins Aerospace Senior Director of Product Management and Strategy Tony Chapman delved into the use of biometrics for end-to-end touchless airport journeys during a recent FlightPlan event, as well.
Spirit is also planning to deploy WiFi capabilities to its planes, allowing for more touchless interactions in the air. Its biometrics plans would require the cooperation of the hub airports it operates out of, some but not all of which have put biometric systems in place.
Speaking during an Aviation Week webinar, SITA Vice President Airline & Airport Sebastian Fabre told listeners that the industry will have to leverage smart technologies for touchless experiences as traveler volumes begin to rebound.
Volumes are up significantly since their record-lows in May, but the recovery will take time, as operations are adjusted to provide consumer confidence and maintain regulatory compliance.
“Our industry must transform the passenger experience to increase traveler safety while balancing economic pressures from slow customer demand,” Fabre said. “To successfully walk this tightrope and navigate a return to the skies for viable volumes of passengers, airports and airlines need to assimilate new information from governments and health officials, adapt operations immediately and automate processes permanently.”
SITA recommends a combination of biometric and mobile solutions to reduce contact, in addition to distancing and health screening measures.
Facial recognition has been added to two gates at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to accelerate boarding processes and make the process touchless, airport officials told local outlet KHOU.
The biometric technology is expected to work for people wearing facial coverings, according to the report, and will be added to three more gates by June 30. By October, 15 gates are expected to have biometric boarding in operation.
The mandatory 14-day quarantine in place for people flying into Hawaii will be replaced with a new health-screening process including thermal scans and facial recognition, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports.
State Attorney General Clare Connors announced the new process will include temperature scans followed by COVID-19 tests for those registering a possible fever during a press conference. Five vendors are supplying thermal scanning hardware for pilots at Honolulu, Hilo, Kona, Kahului and Lihue airports, allowing the Hawaii Department of Transportation to assess thermal scanners with facial recognition. Biometrics will be used to identify people who qualify for additional health screening, but would not be used to track people during quarantine.