After a successful trial in Los Angeles, Lufthansa is planning to expand its biometric boarding pass program to airports nationwide, the airline announced Monday.
Instead of checking boarding passes and passports at the gate, the airline uses specialized cameras to snap images of passengers’ faces. They’re uploaded to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which checks them against its database within a few seconds. During the trial, Lufthansa reports it was able to board 350 passengers onto an Airbus A380 in about 20 minutes.
Other airlines working with Amadeus, the air travel IT firm, are also likely to roll out biometric boarding, the companies said. In the U.S., they’ll be able to connect to the CBP database and won’t have to create their own databases of facial data. In addition to Lufthansa, airlines including JetBlue and Delta have already launched biometric pilots.
“We anticipate that in near time, biometric boarding, as well as other aspects of the air travel experience, will be widely utilized across the U.S. and beyond,” said Bjoern Becker, Lufthansa’s senior director, product management ground and digital services.
Airlines and officials have long said that using face recognition or other biometric data like fingerprints can be faster and more convenient than showing documents at the airport. But civil libertarians have warned of potential privacy issues if biometric data isn’t carefully safeguarded by the government, airlines, and the other companies involved. I wrote more about the issues involved here.