[dropcap size=big]B[/dropcap]ritish Airways is trialling new biometric gates designed to speed up boarding and arrivals processes at four US airports – Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

The technology means that passengers no longer have to show passports and boarding cards – instead, the gates identify them with facial recognition cameras, which respond much quicker than manual checks. At Orlando airport, for example, BA has managed to board flights of 240 customers in about ten minutes using just two biometric gates for its daily BA2036 flight to London Gatwick.

The airline says: “Similar to facial identification built into mobile phones, the biometric e-Gates use high-definition camera technology, and allow customers to pass through by recognising their unique facial features and matching them with the passport, visa or immigration photos.”British Airways biometric boarding gatesSo far, British Airways is the first and only airline to use this particular SITA-developed biometric technology to board international flights at Orlando. The airline began testing at Los Angeles International airport in November, and has found that it has been able to board 400 customers here in just 22 minutes – less than half the time it takes when using traditional checks.

Given concerns about security and privacy, BA says it has been working closely with US Customs and Border Protection to “ensure strict adherence to privacy rules and regulations”.

Even though some people may be wary of this technology, the reality is it will probably become the norm very soon, so we have to get used to it. What’s more, the authorities already have our information and photographs in their systems, so these gates are simply utilising what they already have and matching it up with us in a more sophisticated, streamlined way.

BA has been trying out biometric gates for domestic UK flights from its hub at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 for some time. But in the US, when flying to Miami and New York JFK, passengers are now experiencing a biometric arrivals processs in a bid to reduce lengthy queues. No fingerprinting or document swiping is required.

Carolina Martinoli, British Airways’ director of brand and customer experience, said: “British Airways is pioneering the use of biometric technology to benefit customers by simplifying and speeding up their journey through the airport, as part of our £4.5 billion investment programme.

“We’re using technology that consumers are now familiar with and trust because it delivers a convenient, reliable and secure experience.

“Our latest trial with SITA in Orlando is helping us to reduce the time it takes to board our aircraft, and early indications are that using biometrics for arrivals has huge potential too. These trials will help us to evolve the technology and processes we use to best suit the needs of our customers.”

Diana Einterz, SITA President, Americas, said: “SITA has partnered with British Airways to deliver a great customer experience using sophisticated technologies. We have combined the various airline boarding checks along with the US border checks into one simple step. British Airways customers simply look at a camera and within seconds are approved to board. It is secure and seamless travel in action today.”

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