Traffic at airports after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country came to a staggering halt. The U.S. went from one of the highest traffic days on March 12 to the lowest, just one month later, according to the FAA. As the country looks to recover post-COVID, airports and airlines will need to boost passenger confidence by enabling contactless journey options.

Last month, aviation leaders came together for FlightPlan, an event hosted by Inmarsat and APEX, to discuss the future of the aviation industry in a post-COVID world. Tony Chapman, Senior Director of Product Management and Strategy at Collins Aerospace’s Information Management Services, highlighted how biometrics solutions will provide greater confidence for passengers seeking social distancing and safety measures during the travel experience. “Now with passengers seeking a touch-free journey across the airport, biometrics is an ideal approach to address their concerns,” Chapman told the audience.

Biometrics, while not a new technology, has seen more interest in the past few years at airports across the globe. As we face recovery and the aviation industry looks to boost passenger confidence, biometrics will likely see even more traction.

In many of the latest examples of biometrics in airports, a single token-based journey takes a passenger’s biometrics – typically a facial image – and ties it to the passenger’s boarding pass or passport. Once enrolled, facial recognition “allows the passenger to securely move through each touchpoint of the airport using their biometric as the travel token,” Chapman explained. “Biometric identification technology enables passengers to flow seamlessly through airport touchpoints that are susceptible to long queues and congestion.” Additionally, integration of biometrics with self service kiosks and self bag drops along with new mobile applications will allow passengers to minimize contact with kiosks and other airport processing surfaces and allow them to use their own device to journey through the airport.

Consider the areas of the airport that typically face the most congestion: baggage check, security and immigration lines, boarding gates, and baggage claim areas. Passengers looking to travel in the near future with a six-foot distance from their peers, will demand airports address these areas of congestion by better enabling a contactless journey. 

While there are several forms of tokens and biometrics, facial recognition software solutions will need to adapt to today’s challenges and address passengers wearing protective facemasks, Chapman predicted. “The accuracy required with passengers wearing face masks will be a new challenge for facial recognition. The industry will quickly develop new solutions to address these and other limitations, but these solutions will need to be rapidly deployed to gain passenger acceptance of safety and security within the aviation industry,” Chapman said.

The future of the airport, post-COVID, will need to include many solutions to ensure a seamless, safe journey, not just for passengers but for airport staff, ground teams, and airline crews. Biometrics will continue to fuel these innovations from accelerating immigration processing, to moving passengers through the system from before arrival to the gate with their mobile device or facial recognition, to identifying crew members.

“Working together we can drive these ideas forward and continue to provide technology that lower costs, engages the passengers and improves efficiency,” Chapman concluded.

Watch as Chapman shares insight into the future of biometrics and how airports can begin approaching a contactless journey for passengers.

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.