Heathrow Airport will get a new runway by late 2020s

Heathrow Airport to get biometric upgrade to cut out boarding passes

Image credit: Tony Hisgett

Advanced biometric technology will be rolled out across Heathrow Airport from next year that will identify passengers using facial recognition and prevent the need for boarding passes.

The system should help streamline passenger journeys through Heathrow from check-in to take-off and could reduce the average passenger’s journey time by up to a third.

Facial recognition points will be installed at check-in, bag drop and boarding, and the system will be optional for those travelling through the airport.

The £50m project will be the world’s largest biometric deployment when it launches next summer.

At present, travellers need to stop to show agents different forms of ID such as boarding cards, booking reference numbers, as well as their passports.

“As our passenger numbers continue to grow, we must look for innovative ways to make it easier and quicker for them to travel through Heathrow with choice, whilst keeping our airport secure,” said Heathrow customer relations and service director Jonathan Coen.

“Biometrics are key to helping us do that and we are really excited about the biggest roll-out of this equipment at any UK airport.

“With this technology, we’ll be able to offer passengers choice on how they travel through our airport, with colleagues on hand to guide passengers that require it.

“Biometric technology has been well received by our passengers so far and we’re looking forward to working with our colleagues and the airline community as part of our ongoing transformation at Heathrow, with a focus on enhancing passenger experience.”

Some forms of biometrics are already in use at the airport, such as facial recognition e-gates at the border, but the latest step will be the first time that Heathrow will use the technology at every stage of the departing passenger’s journey.

Although the system would mean significantly less contact with staff departing from Heathrow, colleagues will still be on hand to assist passengers who need it and will cut down on repetitive tasks that can cause bottlenecks.

Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport recently unveiled a similar offering to help speed up the departure process, with self-service kiosks for flight and baggage check-in, security clearance and boarding powered by facial recognition.

Earlier this year, Singapore’s main airport began using facial recognition to locate late passengers and detect how much shopping they are doing in duty-free stores. 

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