Biometrics, or the use of a person’s unique physical
characteristics for identification, has become something
of a buzzword in the technology and security fields.
The application of biometric technologies is changing
the way airports and airlines identify travelers. This new
technology has the potential to improve passenger
throughput capacities during the ticketing, bag drop,
boarding and security processes.
AVIATION AND BIOMETRICS
In the last decade, more organizations have begun
viewing biometric technologies as a way to manage
security with minimal intrusion. There are a variety
of successful biometric technologies in use today:
fingerprints, hand geometry, ear lobe identification,
iris recognition, gait measurement and facial recognition,
as well as other new and emerging technologies
being successfully implemented by a multitude of end
users. These technologies identify a person via video
capture and pattern recognition without disrupting the
Currently, biometrics are being utilized in airport security
and immigration applications. Facial recognition has
gained the most traction, with testing taking place in
many locations around the world. It is projected that,
in the future, visa-holding passengers who wish to
board an international flight will have to agree to a facial
geometry scan, which will then be linked to his or her
passport for identification.
But the application of biometrics is expanding beyond
security and immigration. Soon, biometrics will be
used to create a single-user ID for each passenger.
During ticketing, a traveler’s personal information will be
matched with his or her biometric data and then to the
image ID. This data also will be linked to the traveler’s
baggage and matched with the airline database, linking
passenger to carry-on baggage and identifying security
threat risk level.
Upon exiting security, the data will be used to track
the traveler’s progress to the boarding gate, where
The use of advanced technology is becoming more prevalent throughout airports, from ticketing to
security checkpoints. Security continues to be a priority for airports, but in the face of rising capacities,
innovators are developing more ways to identify passengers and simplify their movement through the
airport. In the last five years, the push to modernize airport operations has included the use of biometric
technologies throughout the airport community, domestically and internationally.
THE CHANGING FACE OF AVIATION
Biometrics in Airport Operations
By Michael K. Pilgrim and Shawn M. Whalen, PE, RCDD, PSP, LEED AP