United trials end-to-end biometric journey at SFO

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San Francisco SFO airport [Credit: Daily Travel Photos/Shutterstock.com]
United and SITA are testing an end-to-end domestic-travel experience using biometrics. Photo Credit: Daily Travel Photos/Shutterstock.com

United Airlines, in partnership with the air travel IT solutions provider SITA, has begun the first U.S. trial of an end-to-end biometric airport journey for U.S. domestic travel.

The trial, which is scheduled to last 60 days, is being conducted at San Francisco airport on United flights departing out of gates E5 and E6. Participants will take part in what SITA called a "low-touch, biometric-enabled airport experience."

Flyers who are participating in the trial scan their driver's license and pose for a photo at a check-in kiosk. Once the traveler's identity is confirmed, their face becomes their boarding pass. Flyers pass through remaining touchpoints, including bag drop, TSA security and boarding, simply by stepping up to a biometrically-enabled camera.

This trial for domestic flying builds upon biometric facial recognition capabilities already in place for international travel out of San Francisco. In 2020, more than half of all international flights at the airport were boarded using biometrics, SITA said.

Biometrics are also in use for international entry and exit in dozens of U.S. airports and have been deployed for end-to-end journeys on international departures at airports such as Atlanta and Los Angeles, using biometric data stored in passports.

The deployment of Real ID driver licenses, which require that photos be compatible with facial recognition biometrics, has made the trial for domestic flights possible, said Sherry Stein, head of technology strategy for SITA Americas.

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