Heathrow to fully deploy facial recognition for departures by 2019


UK’s Heathrow to launch airport’s first end-to-end biometrics trial bringing facial recognition to each point of the departing passenger’s journey.

Heathrow passengers are set for a biometric revolution as the airport announces plans for a full-scale rollout of new biometric services from the summer of 2019. The new technology will be a first for the UK’s only hub airport and will streamline the passenger journey through Heathrow from check-in to take-off – which could reduce the average passenger’s journey time by up to a third.

The GBP 50 million project will see facial recognition added to even more points in the passenger journey, transforming the passenger experience and speeding up check-in, bag drop and boarding. IATA research shows that 64% of passengers would be prepared to share biometric information in exchange for a smoother journey.

The new technology uses facial recognition at check-in, bag drops, security lanes and boarding gates to create a seamless experience for passengers travelling through the airport. The long-term aim of the technology will be for passengers to be able to walk through the airport without breaking their stride. Passengers have already been using the new services in the live operation throughout 2018 as a part of the trial phase and the feedback has been positive.

Currently, manual authentication means that passengers need to present different forms of ID such as boarding cards, booking reference numbers as well as their passports to different agents to show that they’re authorised to travel. By offering passengers the option to use more instant facial recognition technology they will have the choice to streamline that process and collectively significantly reduce the amount of paper used when flying. Facial biometrics are more accurate than manual checks and offer increased security, demonstrating how technology helps us without impacting on passenger experience.

Heathrow has already begun using facial recognition in some stages of the passenger journey, both on entry to the UK at the Border with the biometric e-gates. The technology is also used for domestic journeys through the airport, but this will be the first time that Heathrow will use the technology at every stage of the departing passenger’s journey. This has the potential to allow for greater personalisation of passenger services, useful for passengers requiring additional assistance.

“Focus on enhancing passenger experience”

Heathrow Customer Relations and Service director, Jonathan Coen said: “As our passenger numbers continue to grow, we must look for innovative ways to make it easier and quicker for them to travel through Heathrow with choice, whilst keeping our airport secure. Biometrics are key to helping us do that and we are really excited about the biggest rollout of this equipment at any UK airport.

“With this technology, we’ll be able to offer passengers choice on how they travel through our airport, with colleagues on hand to guide passengers that require it. Biometric technology has been well received by our passengers so far and we’re looking forward to working with our colleagues and the airline community as part of our ongoing transformation at Heathrow, with a focus on enhancing the passenger experience.”

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