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Air Canada implements biometrics as WTTC urges adoption across travel industry

Air Canada implements biometrics as WTTC urges adoption across travel industry

Air Canada has launched an optional biometric boarding process for flights departing the U.S. for Canada following a successful pilot at San Francisco International Airport.

The touchless process takes a matter of seconds, according to the announcement, and consists of travellers being matched against the passport photo already submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Traveler Verification Service with facial recognition. The service is optional for now, but may not be for Canadians and other foreigners for long, based on a recent rule-making proposal by CBP.

“Air Canada has introduced numerous touchless processes throughout the customer journey, and we are pleased to now offer an optional, innovative biometric boarding choice for customers departing SFO that is seamless, time-saving and convenient while reducing contact and processing time,” comments Andrew Yiu, vice president of Product at Air Canada.  “Customers have told us they value streamlined processes and we continue to evaluate and assess additional touchless initiatives to further advance safe and secure travel while enhancing the overall travel experience.”

The airline has launched a range of other touchless processes during the past year, including baggage checking and ordering in its lounges.

“Along with CBP’s enhanced Simplified Arrival process upon entry at SFO, we are transforming the air travel journey by expanding the use of facial biometrics through public-private partnerships to further secure and enhance the customer experience,” states Diane J. Sabatino, deputy executive assistant commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Air Canada plans to launch the process at other U.S. airports “in the near future” and is exploring its options at Canadian airports.

Taiwanese airline EVA Air also recently joined CBP’s Biometric Exit program with a facial recognition implementation at San Francisco International.

WTTC recommends biometric implementation in travel industry survival guidelines

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has published what it calls a major new report recommending global guidelines for a ‘Safe & Seamless Traveller Journey,’ and emphasizing the need for the swift and harmonized implementation of digital traveller identity and biometrics.

The new report, part of the WTTC’s Safe & Seamless Traveller Journey (SSTJ) initiative to support the replacement of manual ID verifications with biometrics, was developed in partnership with Oliver Wyman Consulting Group and Pangiam, which was recently acquired by AE Industrial Partners and counts former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan as CEO.

The importance of the SSTJ was recently recognized by the G20, according to the announcement, as the sector fights for its survival.

Industry stakeholders are encouraged to adopt global standards, collaborate across sectors and between public and private organizations, to implement standardized global health and safety protocols, and develop and adopt digital innovations to enable seamless travel, better manage traveller flow, and improve traveller experiences while making them safer.

We believe that the Safe & Seamless Traveller Journey will not only be paramount in aiding a swift recovery to the sector, but also in shaping the new normal of Travel & Tourism for years to come,” says WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara. “This important initiative enables mobility and increases safety and security, while always putting the passenger at the very centre.”

Guevara also expressed the WTTC’s congratulations to ICAO for endorsing the Digital Travel Credential (DTC) Type 1 specifications to bring digital identity-based travel one step closer to implementation.

“This SSTJ initiative helps to develop clear testing and tracing practices while leveraging contactless technologies enabling a touchless environment and faster processing, which are key in restarting travel safely,” explains Amadeus IT Group President and CEO Luis Maroto.

“SITA strongly supports the move towards biometric-enabled identity solutions that allows travelers to move securely and easily across every step in their journey while maintaining control of their identity in a fully ethical manner,” affirms SITA CEO Barbara Dalibard. “This is an approach we have long advocated. The benefits of speed, safety and improved security are significant. With the additional benefit of limiting touch and maintaining distance, these digital identity solutions take on new relevance in the COVID era.”

“As the air transport and hospitality industry, we now can make tremendous strides in implementing these solutions that have long been accepted by other industries such as the finance sector,” Dalibard concludes.

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