Airline Execs Discuss the Future of Biometric ID for Travel

The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) is a network of the world’s airlines, suppliers and related companies. Its Board of Governors recently met at the APEX/IFSA EXPO 1 in Long Beach, California to discuss the future of the airline passenger experience, and they had a lot to say about biometric identity.

Former TSA Chief Innovation Officer Daniel McCoy, who attended as an expert guest, predicted that facial recognition at airports would make the whole passenger experience frictionless.

‘You’ve seen the CAT machines and the CAT-2 machines. It is reading the image from your booklet and then matching it to your face. That will change as we evolve more into a partnership strategy with both airlines and with other government agencies like US Customs and Border Protection,’ he said.

JSX (airline) CEO, Alex Wilcox, felt that the biggest obstacle to facial recognition enabling frictionless travel through airports ‘has been the willingness of people to actually give up their picture and opt into that.’

The theme of the benefits of enrolment was picked up by Star Alliance CEO, Jeffrey Goh, who said that ‘the Star Alliance biometrics product essentially is about enrolling once with a biometric template, and then being able to use it in multiple places multiple times.

‘Today, we have that product rolled out in Frankfurt, in Hamburg, in Munich, in Vienna, for a customer who has enrolled his or her biometric. You can simply walk up to the gates or to the biometrics infrastructure and the gates will simply open. That’s because we store the encrypted template in a biometrics hub.’ 

The discussions then moved on to the need for companies and authorities to work together to address concerns about privacy and control. ‘We are trying to be at the forefront of the use of biometrics from an airport perspective. As a TSA (Transport Security Administration) innovation airport, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with TSA to pilot and then implement their latest technologies including the latest CAT2 technology.

‘We believe that biometrics is the key to enable self-service, a customer experience that gives passengers control over their journey. We want to be in control and being able to get through all of security or customs as fast as they can and get on with getting airside.’ said Los Angeles World Airports CEO, Justin Erbacci.

Greg Foran, Air New Zealand CEO, called for more coordination between authorities in his remarks, ‘You’ve got to get everyone lined up from all your authorities to customers and how they’re thinking about confidentiality and other information. What you’re seeing is increasingly is the tech companies coming together. Then what we’ve got to do is get all the authorities working together.’ 1