In theory, preregistered passengers at Australia’s busiest airport will soon be able to walk directly to their flights without ever having to produce a boarding pass or identification.
A trial set to begin in May will allow select passengers at Sydney Airport (SYD) to board international flights without producing a passport or boarding pass at the airport. Instead of tickets and traditional forms of ID, preregistered flyers will use automated facial recognition checkpoints to check bags, clear security and board flights.
“Your face will be your passport and boarding pass,” SYD CEO Geoff Culbert told the Sydney Morning Herald, adding, “There will be no fumbling for passports. It will make the travel process so much easier for customers. You can check in for your flight at home on the couch using facial-recognition technology using your smartphone.”
The initial trial will be limited to passengers departing on Qantas Airlines flights. The airport says that if all goes according to plan, the program could quickly expand to include other airlines as well. Air travelers who wish to participate in the biometric identification program must first submit an application and provide background information to the Australian Border Force (ABF).
Culbert told reporters this week that the scale of the soon-to-launch biometric initiative at the airport is groundbreaking. “We are not aware of this being done to this extent anywhere else in the world,” he told the newspaper.
SYD already uses facial recognition technology to help identify passengers arriving on international flights. The biometric system in place at customs and border control has reportedly reduced wait times dramatically.
Last year, KLM tested a similar pilot program at its Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) hub. This biometric system, likewise, relied on volunteer passengers who had already been pre-screened as having passed a background check.
To address privacy concerns, the KLM officials promised that biometric data collected at the airport will be deleted within 10 days of boarding a flight. So far, the officials at SYD and Qantas have offered no such guarantees.