Heathrow Airport: Passengers WON’T need a passport as facial recognition tech launched

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Heathrow Airport is to install facial recognition technology that will see travellers ditching their passport at check in. The £50 million project is intended to reduce time spent passing through the airport by up to a third, The Times reported. With the new technology, passengers will be checked in simply by being scanned by a camera. The project is the biggest single deployment of biometric technology on the planet.

Under the new system at Heathrow, travellers will have to register by linking their passport to their biometric facial information.

This would begin with passengers scanning their passport in automated kiosks and having their photo taken.

Then, whenever they subsequently travel through Heathrow, the system would simply ‘match’ their face and let them through.

Rather than digging around in hand luggage for a passport and boarding pass, flyers would just have to look into a camera.

Gatwick Airport has also said it is to run a second trial of facial recognition technology next month.

In the USA, British Airways has said shifting towards biometric boarding has allowed boarding times to be reduced by half.

Passengers trialled the new services in the live operation throughout 2018 and feedback was tremendously positive, Heathrow said.

The long-term aim of the technology at Heathrow will be for passengers to be able to walk through the airport without breaking their stride.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) research shows that 64 per cent of passengers would choose to share their biometric data in exchange for a better experience when travelling.

For those worried about privacy concerns, a Heathrow spokeswoman told “We aren’t going to be asking passengers for any information that they don’t already share when travelling.

“The technology builds on the biometrics used for domestic passenger travel or when EU citizens cross the border into the UK.

“It would only match their image to what is stored on the biometric chip on their passport.”

The new system will mark the first time a UK airport has used biometric technology at every stage of the passenger’s journey through the airport ahead of flying.

It will not be available to all travellers immediately, however, said The Times.

Moreover, those passengers who do not wish to use the facial recognition technology will be able to opt out.

Travellers going through airport security should remember to make sure their electronic devices are charged so they can turn them on if asked by officials. 

By proving your device works as normal, a security screener knows that the phone, laptop or tablet is not hiding hidden explosives where the batteries are stored, explained The Telegraph.

The current travel advice from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) states: “Make sure your electronic devices are charged before you travel. If your device does not switch on when requested, you will not be allowed to take it onto the aircraft.

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