JetBlue tests using face recognition to scrap boarding passes

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(Bloomberg) -- JetBlue Airways Corp. plans to test facial-recognition technology to match travelers to passport or visa photos, adding to efforts by other carriers to eliminate the need for boarding passes.

The JetBlue program will start next month on flights from Boston’s Logan International Airport to Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport, the airline said in a statement Wednesday.

The testing highlights efforts by carriers to speed customers through congested airports while increasing security. Europe’s KLM airline in February began testing face-scanning technology for boarding at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Delta this month said it would attempt a self-serve process for checking bags at one airport using facial recognition and has tested limited use of fingerprints for some loyalty-program members.

Customers of New York-based JetBlue will be able to take part in its experiment without enrolling or registering in advance.

“We hope to learn how we can further reduce friction points in the airport experience, with the boarding process being one of the hardest to solve,” Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s executive vice president for customer experience, said in the statement.

A custom-designed camera will take a photo and transmit it to the U.S. customs service to compare against its database of passport, visa and immigration images. A display above the camera will notify passengers when they can board. JetBlue is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and SITA, an information-technology provider for airlines.


“This is the first integration of biometric authorization by the CBP with an airline and may prove to be a solution that will be quick and easy to roll out across U.S. airports,” Jim Peters, SITA’s chief technology officer, said in the statement.

Delta Air Lines Inc. has been testing the use of fingerprints at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for members of the carrier’s loyalty program for entry to its Sky Club lounges. That has been limited to members of its SkyMiles program who also are enrolled in Clear, a subscription service that uses biometrics to help process passengers through some airport checkpoints. The Atlanta-based carrier issued a statement Wednesday saying the test would be expanded but subsequently said it was released prematurely.

Clear is expanding at major U.S. airports with lanes using fingerprints or iris scans to check members’ identities. The service can be used to eliminate the need for initial identity checks and boarding passes.

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