Technology could expedite boarding process
JetBlue Airways will be the first airline to test facial-recognition systems with passengers at Boston’s Logan Airport as part of a broader rollout of the emerging technology at US airports.
Passengers on the Boston-to-Aruba route will be photographed at the gate instead of checking in with boarding passes. Images will then be checked be against the passengers’ passport or visa photos on file with Customs and Border Protection. Those matched successfully will be permitted to board without presenting a ticket or a passport. Passengers not accurately identified by the system can still show their passport to verify their identities and status.
According to JetBlue vice president of customer experience Joanna Geraghty, the system could be a first step in a broad reworking of air travel, substituting face checks for travel documents check-in, baggage drop, security check, boarding, and customs. “The main advantage is customer ease,” Geraghty said. “It’s foreseeable to have a situation in the future where a customer never has to take out a boarding pass.”
A separate line at the gate will be created for passengers willing to use facial recognition to board. The airline expects the technology will take seconds to verify identities, so boarding for those passengers could go faster than for those with tickets.
Privacy advocates are already wary of facial recognition, claiming it gives the government more surveillance capabilities and that photos made at airports should be promptly deleted after the transaction.
Facial-recognition technology was initially attempted at Logan in 2002 to verify airport employees after the 9/11 attacks, but the program was cancelled as it failed to properly identify nearly 40 percent of its test subjects.