IT’S the bane of many travellers. How many times have you furiously dug through your jacket pockets and backpack in the hope of finding your elusive boarding pass, while airport staff glare at you and the line behind you swells?
Well in news that’s sure to have some travellers ecstatic — and others nostalgic — the end could soon be near for the travel essential.
At least that’s what Alaska Airlines hopes. It’s aiming to make flying easier by testing a machine that scans the fingerprints of travellers as they check in. It uses biometrics, an automated way of analysing a person’s physical characteristics to verify it is in fact that person.
The pilot program began in April and involves about 200 Alaska Airlines passengers who frequently fly domestically from Mineta San Jose International Airport in California.
The airline partnered with the security firm CLEAR for the trial; the company provides the special machines at 12 US airports as a way to speed up the security process for passengers willing to pay an annual fee of $245.
Those involved in the trial no longer need to carry a boarding pass or bring ID such as a driver’s licence.
“Our vision is simplify the day of travel and have a customer get from their car, through the airport and to their seat without having to pull out a government-issued ID,” Alaska Airlines spokesman Jerry Tolzman said.
Those who took part in the trial initially underwent an enrolment process that lasted 20 minutes. Airport officials were able to look up the passengers’ boarding passes electronically after their fingerprints were scanned.
While biometrics has been tested in some airports around Europe and the US, Mr Tolzman said it has a long way to go — and we probably won’t be able to replace our passports with our fingerprints any time soon. But it will be worth it.
“Using biometrics as identification has a huge potential to simplify the travel experience and eliminate hassles, while adding to the security of air travel. We’re very excited to see where we can take this next.”
Whether similar systems will be used in Australia is not yet known. But we can hope.
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