British Airways (BA) is trialing biometric technology to speed up boarding and arrivals processes in US airports at Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

The UK-based carrier said the new technology enables nearly 240 passengers to board in around 10 minutes at Florida’s Orlando International Airport (MCO), where two biometric gates have been installed on one stand. BA customers flying on the daily BA2036 flight to London Gatwick Airport can use the new technology.

The facial recognition technology is the result of a partnership between the airline and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and technology partner SITA.

BA began biometric boarding on international flights out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at the end of last year. Using the new technology, the airline can board more than 400 customers in 22 minutes—cutting boarding time in half. 

The biometric boarding trials in Orlando and LAX add to technology already in use by BA on its domestic UK flights from its hub at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5

Meanwhile, customers on select BA flights from Heathrow to Miami and New York-JFK are benefitting from a similar biometric trial upon arrival to the US, making the arrivals process faster and easier. 

The new SITA technology eliminates the need for travelers to present their boarding pass and passport at the departure gate, simplifying and speeding up boarding. Instead, customers look into a camera prior to boarding, wait for their biometric data to be verified, and walk onto the aircraft. ­

Similar to facial identification built into mobile phones, the biometric e-Gates use high-definition camera technology, and allow customers to pass through by recognizing their unique facial features and matching them with the passport, visa or immigration photos.

Security is at the core of biometric facial technology, and British Airways said it has been working closely in partnership with CBP to ensure strict adherence to privacy rules and regulations.

BA director-brand & customer experience Carolina Martinoli said biometric technology is “part of our £4.5 billion ($6.3 billion) investment program. We’re using technology that consumers are now familiar with and trust because it delivers a convenient, reliable and secure experience.”

Linda Blachly