HEATHROW passengers won’t need to show passports or boarding passes from this summer as Britain’s biggest airport goes hi-tech.
It says the ambitious £50million project will streamline the check-in to take-off process – while chopping the average passenger’s journey through the airport by “up to one-third”.
The new technology uses facial recognition at check-in, bag drops, security lanes and boarding gates to create a seamless experience for passengers travelling through Heathrow.
In October last year, the airport said that it had already begun using facial recognition in some stages of the passenger journey, for example on entry to the UK at the Border with biometric e-gates.
The technology is also used for domestic journeys through the airport.
But this will be the first time that Heathrow will use the technology at every stage of the departing passenger’s journey.
As a result, it said that it would boast the “world’s largest deployment of biometric” technology – including bag drops and self-boarding gates.
According to trade union GMB London Region – which is set to hold a protest outside the airport tomorrow to call for a “real living wage” – 2018 was the “busiest year in Heathrow’s history, bringing in £3 billion revenue and 80.1m passengers”.
FACIAL BIOMETRICS ‘MORE ACCURATE’
The airport says the “long-term aim of the technology will be for passengers to walk through the airport without breaking their stride”.
It said the technology was being expanded as “feedback has been tremendously positive”.
Currently, manual authentication means that passengers need to present different forms of ID such as boarding cards, booking reference numbers as well as their passports to different agents to show that they’re authorised to travel.
But, it believes that facial biometrics are more accurate than these manual checks.
However, Heathrow will still allow travellers to choose not to use the facial recognition technology.
Alex Macheras, an aviation consultant, told The Times: “Major American airports already have this and Asia is light years ahead in technology.
“From the point of view of convenience it undoubtedly works, although customers will have concerns about how their data is protected and airports must be transparent about this.”
Research from IATA showed that 64 per cent of passengers are prepared to share biometric information if it makes their journey run more smoothly.
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Heathrow customer relations and service director Jonathan Coen said last October: “As our passenger numbers continue to grow, we must look for innovative ways to make it easier and quicker for them to travel through Heathrow with choice, whilst keeping our airport secure.
“Biometrics are key to helping us do that and we are really excited about the biggest roll out of this equipment at any UK airport.”
The airport already uses the biometric technology at its e-gates, but is expanding it across the whole airport[/caption]