Passenger numbers are rising at an unprecedented rate. How can airports and airlines deal with this growth while maintaining their level of service and increasing market-share? Biometrics may have the answer, according to Stephan Hirmer, head of passenger processing services, airport IT, Amadeus
Few airports have the luxury of simply increasing their physical infrastructure by building additional terminals. Instead, the solution lies in intelligent, efficient use of space and the optimization of airport processes and terminal infrastructure. It also lies in finding ways to more quickly process passengers; freeing terminals of queues and instead enabling travelers to enjoy the retail and dining facilities on offer. Biometric technology holds the potential to make this happen.
Biometric technology has slowly become more prevalent within our daily lives. For example, many of us now unlock our smartphone with a fingerprint or facial scan. Similarly, within the airport environment, over the past few years we have seen trials take place, with results that clearly demonstrate biometrics’ ability to cut waiting times and help passengers board planes more efficiently. Aside from the obvious benefits to the passenger, this also enables airports to make a more competitive offer to their airline partners as it promises shorter turnarounds and less time wasted with planes sitting idle at the stand.
Most recently, Amadeus ran a successful trial of biometric technology at Fraport Slovenija, Ljubljana Airport. It partnered with the airport’s home carrier Adria Airways, Air France, and LOT Polish Airlines to successfully board 175 passengers in record time.
The trial saw passengers enrol using an Amadeus smartphone app that captured a ‘selfie’ alongside their passport photo and boarding pass. A photo of the passenger was then captured at the boarding gate and matched against those previously taken to validate the passenger’s identity and flight status. Upon successful matching, the airlines’ Departure Control System was updated and the passenger was able to board immediately. The solution used in the trial is fully GDPR-compliant.
This solution, which is fully integrated with Amadeus Airport Common Use Service (ACUS) and which utilizes centralized cloud technology, cut waiting times by 75% and removed the need for agents to manually check passports at the gates, making things easier and simpler for the passenger. However, perhaps more crucially, it was a step in the right direction toward a common biometrics solution for the industry.
Finding a common solution
Currently, there are disparate biometrics solutions being used across different airports and regions. This means that passengers often need to register and re-register for a solution separately at each airport, each time they pass through. The solution used in the aforementioned trial is different. Once registered, passengers can use it time and time again, across different airports and airlines.
As we know, the consumers of today expect ease, simplicity and automation. If a solution does not save them time or effort, they are likely to question its value. What is missing from the aviation landscape is a centralized solution for the industry – a solution that sits between airports, airlines, passengers, and different providers of biometric equipment, creating a common standard for everybody. This would facilitate the quick adoption of cross-border biometric processes and the ability to scale-up the solution beyond boarding, across check-in and security.
We are stepping steadily toward a time where passengers will be able to seamlessly move through the airport without showing their travel documents, and where queues are virtually non-existent. With the roll-out of biometric technology becoming widespread, soon all stakeholders within the aviation ecosystem, including passengers, will reap the rewards.
Stephan Hirmer is head of passenger processing services, airport IT at Amadeus