Benefits of online identity verification for aviation companies
By Dmitri Laush, CEO of GetID
The global pandemic hit the global aviation industry pretty hard. According to Statista, in January 2021, the number of scheduled flights worldwide was down by 43.5 percent compared to January 2020. However, now countries have started to open up and international flights are back. Since COVID-19 had many services shifting online, now online passenger check-in is getting implemented by more and more airlines. In this article, we’ll take a look at online check-ins, explain why they are necessary, and how flight companies benefit from them.
Why do airlines verify the identity of the passengers in the first place?
Any flight company can require from any passenger a valid ID document with a photo and visa if it is needed to enter a certain country. Passengers have to provide all identification details, including number, expiration date, place of the issue, date of birth, etc.
This is needed to ensure the safety of people on board and to make sure that no criminals or indicted persons try to flee the country or perform other illegal activities. It’s also needed to make sure that a passenger has the right to enter a particular country. Of course, it is the customs officer’s responsibility, but flight companies can make their job easier and prevent certain citizens from even purchasing a ticket.
What are the benefits of online identity verification?
First, online identity verification is time saving. If you ever see big lines at the airport, they are usually to register for a flight. Registering online prior to the arrival to the airport can save a lot of time not only for the passenger but also for the flight company personnel.
Second, it is cheaper for the flight company. That’s why many low-cost airlines require online check-in and charge the passenger if he or she prefers to check-in at the airport. If everyone has entered their personal data online and received the boarding pass with the QR code to scan, flight companies do not need to pay the personnel working at the registration desks anymore and do not need to lease those desks from the airport.
Third, COVID restrictions still exist in many countries, and new variants of the coronavirus are continuing to appear. Therefore, to adhere to the existing rules, it is safer and more convenient to make passengers register online than to have them standing next to each other in the line to the registration desk in the airport.
In addition, to save passengers’ time and make online registration and identity verification easier, flight companies might trust third-party identity verification providers, which are able to extract the data from IDs. The extracted ID data (e.g. first and last name, date of birth, document number, etc.) is then used to pre-fill the registration form. Since a big portion of online check-ins are made using mobile devices, form pre-fill is a great feature for improving customer experience and increasing booking completion rates.
What are the pitfalls?
Despite the fact that online registration is cheap, fast, and convenient, there are some pitfalls for both the flight company and the passenger.
First of all, it is easier to perform any kind of identity fraud or theft online. If you do not look like the picture in your passport online, no one will ever know, as it is only detectable in front of the registration desk/customs officer. So fraudsters might get flight tickets online with forged or fake documents, especially if the flight is domestic and there is no customs office. How can we prevent this? Flight companies simply need to use identity verification providers that can detect ID and identity fraud.
Second, fraudsters might access the passenger’s personal account and re-issue the boarding ticket for another person or spend the miles and bonuses earned. How can you stop this? Again, by using a proper identity verification vendor and multi-step verification before accessing the account. The cybersecurity department of the airline company also should be on a very high level of alert to spot every unusual sign-in attempt. Since the aviation company stores the vulnerable personal details of each passenger, this data should be strictly protected.
The third threat for the passengers is to provide the sensitive data not to the flight company’s actual website, but to mirror fraudsters’ websites or to some other scam service online. How to avoid that? There are several ways, including memorizing the flight company website spelling and checking it once you are at the website, not buying from some online ticket aggregators which you do not know, and always check if the connection is secure (there should be a little lock icon on the left in the address field).
Nevertheless, online check-in might pose some risks, but it’s also incorrect to think that if you register offline in the airport fraudsters have no chance of stealing your personal data. Many boarding passes, which careless passengers leave in the plane or somewhere else later, might be used to hack into the flight company account and spend miles, or in some cases (if the credit card is tied to the flight company account) even steal money.
So don’t think there is a silver bullet for anything. Passengers need to be careful, but also trust flight companies if they ask for some personal data online. On the other hand, flight companies should maintain a crystal clear reputation and trust only highly respectable identity verification services that can help keep their passengers and their data safe.
Hopefully, a bright post-pandemic future will bring a new peak of world-wide tourism and air travel.
About the author
Dmitri Laush is CEO of GetID, a part of Checkin.com Group – the tech company that reshapes how people all over the world check-in with services online.
DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.