One of Europe’s Busiest Airports Is Testing Facial Recognition Boarding

Feb 18, 2019

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From London to Shanghai to Singapore, facial recognition is beginning its journey to become a more common part of the boarding process. Closer to home, Delta recently launched the first biometric terminal in the US, while the technology has infiltrated certain parts of airports in Orlando, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

A passenger approaches a facial recognition gate at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
A passenger approaches a facial recognition gate at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

This week, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) formally launched a pilot for boarding by means of facial recognition. The news follows a KLM test at the airport some two years ago, with Cathay Pacific stepping up to the plate this time around.

Per the airport, this trial “belongs to the first phase of fully enabling travel by means of facial recognition at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the longer term.”

Here’s an overview of how things will work.

After check-in, participants in the pilot will be accompanied to one of the special registration kiosks. The passengers will have their passport, boarding pass and face scanned here. This process will be followed by security and passport control, as always. When boarding, the passenger’s face will be scanned at the gate. The scan will be compared with the one produced when registering. If the face is recognised, the gate will open and the passenger will be able to board immediately, resulting in greater convenience for the passenger and a smoother flow at the airport.

At present, you still need to show your passport, your boarding pass or both at various checkpoints within the airport; for example, when you drop off your baggage, during security checks, when you cross the border and during boarding.

According to Wilma van Dijk, Director of Safety and Security at Schiphol, you will be able to pass through these checkpoints more smoothly due to being recognized by your face in the future, leaving your passport and boarding pass “tucked away in your bag.”

During the months ahead, scanning faces, passports and boarding passes will be tested on registration and during boarding. In the next phase, this list is intended to be expanded with passport control over the course of the year. There’s no mention of whether initial photos are deleted once the boarding process is complete, or which entity is responsible for the safe-keeping of those images.

All photos courtesy of Schiphol. 

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