April 10 2018  |  Airlines & Airports

Use of biometrics becoming more common in US Airports

By Ronnie Lovler

Technology is making it easier for travelers to make their way through crowded airports, by reducing the time and effort involved in clearing security through the use of biometrics at checkpoints and boarding areas.

Travelers at numerous airports are already seeing the benefits of getting onboard with the process, facilitated by CLEAR, a company that has been pioneering the use of biometrics for air travel.

CLEAR is already a fixture at 30 US airports and sports stadiums, with dedicated CLEAR lanes that allow its customers to “speed through security lines in five minutes or less.”

Now Delta Air Lines, is using biometrics to allow customers at all of its US Sky Club frequent-flier lounges to gain entry by using their fingerprints.

The rollout of the “Delta biometrics” effort capitalizes on the carrier's partnership with CLEAR, by utilizing the CLEAR technology to permit eligible visitors to use their fingerprints to gain entry to their lounges.

According to Delta, it is the only US-based global airline to make this service available.

“From unlocking our phones to entering the workplace, more and more people have the option to use biometrics as a form of identity verification for daily activities,” said Gil West, Delta’s COO, in a news release. “Having that option is quickly becoming an expectation that we are working hard to meet through this program.”

In its report on the rollout at the Atlanta-based airline, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Delta and CLEAR entered into a partnership in 2016 when Delta purchased a 5% stake in the company.

“CLEAR is thrilled to continue partnering with Delta to help facilitate a frictionless travel experience through this new check-in option powered by CLEAR’s secure, proven technology,” said Caryn Seidman-Becker, CLEAR’s co-founder and CEO, in a news release.

Delta is offering its customers a discount to sing up for CLEAR, which has a regular annual cost of US$179, but is US$99 for Delta frequent fliers and free for its elite diamond-level members.

But other airlines are also looking at greater use of biometrics, according to US media.

JET Blue is testing out biometrics with passengers who have boarded international flights at a self-boarding gate using facial recognition, in a test with US Customs and Border Protection, according to the AJC report. That test was done in a partnership with SITA, another air transport technology firm.

In an interview with the AJC, SITA Director of Strategy and Innovation Sean Farrell said people are familiar with using cameras to take selfies, and “we’re using apps on our cellphones to do banking and signing onto those apps using our thumbprint. ... People are starting to become more familiar with biometrics through that.”

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