The New York Port Authority, which operates Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), is piloting a biometric self-boarding e-gate. Conceived and managed by the Port Authority, the pilot program is being tested until the end of August at Gate 62 of Terminal B, following which it will be assessed for wider implementation. The agency is working with partners Easier and Idemia, who manufacture the hardware and software, respectively, and Lufthansa, which has integrated the e-gate into its departure control system.
The normal boarding process requires passengers to wait in line while an attendant scans boarding passes and passports. The biometric boarding process removes this requirement. “The passenger walks right up to the e-gate, which takes a biometric scan and confirms a passenger is okay to board,” said Raymond Viggiano, international facility supervisor at EWR. “There’s very little interaction needed there.”
To replace the routine emplaning process, the biometric system works in tandem with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to cross-reference images. The biometric picture taken before boarding must match the images in CBP’s existing database, which all passport holders have already entered. Once CBP sends confirmation, the airline deletes all scans within 12 hours.
Beyond saving travelers and attendants time, the pilot system also reduces physical contact between attendants, passengers and shared surfaces. Similarly, those agents who would normally be behind plexiglass, scanning documents, can now be redeployed to more useful departments. Viggiano also stated that a significant part of the pilot program involves taking note of customer feedback. All passengers maintain the right to opt out of the biometric system and have their passports and boarding passes checked manually.
Until the Newark Liberty pilot concludes at the end of this month, the Port Authority will continue to collect data that compares the speed of boarding with biometrics – measured by passengers per minute – with the traditional emplaning procedure. The Port Authority and its airport partners hope to take a phased approach in implementing biometric scanners, first at the international gates and then throughout all of Terminal B. Beyond that, the possibilities are limitless.