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Alaska Looks to Fingerprints to Streamline Travel Experience


Alaska Airlines is exploring the possibility of using of fingerprint scanning technology to reinvent the flying experience, from check-in to security screening and more.

First there was online check-in, then came mobile boarding passes and self-tagging baggage at home. Now, Alaska Airlines is seeking to further enhance the travel experience by exploring biometrics — a technology that uses physical attributes for human recognition — to replace the need for travel documents, licenses and even credit cards.

Alaska, which has taken the lead in employing advanced technology over the last several years, announced it is currently testing biometrics that would streamline baggage checking, security screenings and grant lounge access, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The system, known as “e-thumb,” involves passengers simply swiping a scanner with their finger. Alaska officials said biometrics could “shave crucial seconds” for passengers faced with long lines or delays.

“We are looking at ways to make Alaska the easiest airline to fly,” Sandy Stelling, Alaska’s managing director for customer research and development, told Bloomberg. “We’re looking for ways to get rid of waiting. I don’t think there’s a lot of value in waiting.”

The use of biometrics has become increasingly popular at airports. According to an article on Skift.com, there are several successful trials in the works that utilize advanced iris distance, gait and facial recognition systems. Two such systems are currently in use at London Gatwick Airport (LGW).

Alaska recently tested the technology at its Board Room passenger lounges and reported positive results from frequent flyers. It will take some time for the testing and implementation to go through, however, as the airline would need to obtain approval from the TSA.

Passenger acceptance of the technology and concerns over data security will also need to be addressed, industry officials told Bloomberg. It is also unclear how readily other airlines will get on board with biometrics, as it doesn’t produce any obvious cost savings.

[Photo: Alaska Airlines via Bloomberg]

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sdsearch October 15, 2014

Biometrics is one thing, but why is Alaska doing the choosing of the type of biometrics for the TSA??? Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), part of the same department that the TSA is in, use, and they use hand scanners (not fingerprints) for Global Entry. (And Global Entry's Canadian partner, NEXUS, uses iris scans, not fingerprints.) So why should TSA use a third type of biometric instead of using one of the ones that GE or NEXUS already uses, gien the tie-in between GE/NEXUS and PreCheck???