TSA Testing Fingerprint Scans to Get You Through the Airport

Jun 13, 2017

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Tired of fumbling with your phone at the airport security checkpoint? Forgot your ID at home? Well, in the not-so-distant future, you’ll be able to clear security with just your fingerprints.

Starting this week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will be installing fingerprint readers to test a new concept: biometric identification and boarding passes.

The long-term idea is to “automate the travel document checking process by eliminating the need for a boarding pass and identity document,” similar to what JetBlue’s testing in partnership with US Customs and Border Protection. For passengers who are registered in the system, you’d no longer have to wait in line for a TSA agent to check your ID and boarding pass. Instead, you’d simply scan your fingerprints and the system would automatically check to verify that you have a flight from that airport that day.

According to the TSA’s press release, initial testing of this system will begin this week in both Atlanta (ATL) and Denver (DEN). TSA PreCheck members will be able to opt-in to scanning their fingerprints at these new machines:

Image courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration.
Image courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration.

However, instead of speeding up the process, passengers who opt-in during the testing period will actually have to take more time than before. Passengers will still “be subject to the standard ticket document checking process of showing their boarding pass and identification document.”

And, the new machines will only work if you’ve logged your fingerprints with the TSA as part of registering for a Trusted Traveler program such as Global Entry. If you’ve got TSA PreCheck but haven’t registered your fingerprints, the TSA still wants you to participate “since it provides valuable information to TSA during the proof of concept.” In seems that the agency needs to make sure that the system actually rejects passengers who don’t have a matching fingerprint.

Personally, I look forward to the eventual full rollout of this system. On a domestic trip in 2014, my wallet was stolen the day we were scheduled to fly home. It turns out that the TSA has a process for dealing with passengers without an ID, but it’s a lengthy and invasive one. It took my wife’s pleading with a JetBlue gate agent to keep me from missing our flight — which was the last flight of the night. With a fingerprint-based verification system, I’d have no trouble getting through without my identification.

If you manage to try out the TSA’s new system, please share your experience in the comments below.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.

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