Lonely Planet Writer

Will biometric facial scanning technology take the pain out plane boarding?

If you are one of those people who spend most of your time before a flight frantically searching your coat and bags for boarding cards and passports, a new biometric system may be the answer to your prayers.

Is biometric scanning the answer to airport queues?
Is biometric scanning the answer to airport queues? Image by Leszek Lesczynski / CC BY 2.0

The Smart Path technology takes a single biometric facial scan as soon as a passenger arrives at an airport terminal before a quick cross-check with travel documents.

Once scanned, the traveller can safely put both passport and any boarding passes away and not worry about losing them.

At every step of the journey – from check-in, to aircraft boarding, border control and so on – passengers can move through gates simply with a facial scan.

The new technology by travel tech company SITA was exhibited this week in Cologne, Germany at the Passenger Terminal EXPO, a major exhibition.

Border Force officer checking passports of in Terminal 2, The Queen Terminal, at Heathrow Airport, as passport checks on travellers leaving Britain are being brought in.
Border Force officer checking passports of in Terminal 2, Heathrow Airport, a Image by Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Vice President of SITA Matthys Serfontein said: “[It’s] a single, secure, self-service process using existing common-use infrastructure which works seamlessly with multiple airline and government systems.

“Smart Path simplifies secure, passenger processing for everyone – airlines, airports and border authorities.”

The company said they are working with several major airlines and airports to build biometric systems with the aim of them becoming the norm by 2020.

The Smart Path system was on display at the Cologne EXPO alongside a range of new technologies including automated baggage handlers and driverless shuttle buses.

Other handy innovations being showcased include a new power hub that lets seventeen passengers charge their mobile device at once, while still using them.

Also on display was special new seating for boarding gate waiting areas that can increase capacity by 15% and stop passengers – as they often have to do – from having to sit on the ground or their bags.