Who needs a passport when you’ve got your face?

Physical passports and boarding passes could go the way of smoking sections on airplanes thanks to biometric technology. 

What happened: Next year, Singapore’s Changi Airport — ranked among the world’s best — will roll out a biometric system that lets travellers take off without having to flash their passports. The change will streamline operations as the airport welcomes more jet setters.  

Zoom out: Airports and airlines worldwide are experimenting with biometric IDs. 

  • Since 2018, “Smart Gates” at Dubai International have been verifying identities, while travel hubs like Tokyo, Hong Kong, and London all have some facial recognition tech.
  • In the US, major airlines American, Delta, and United, as well as the TSA, have all been testing out biometric check-in options at certain airports.

In Canada: Air Canada began a pilot program this year where passengers on certain flights between Winnipeg and Vancouver could use a “digital faceprint” instead of a boarding pass.

Why it matters: Biometric IDs promise to trim times spent for the most headache-inducing parts of air travel, like bag drops and boarding, making the flying experience more efficient. Faster processing could also help improve Canadian airlines’ dismal on-time performance.

  • Delta Airlines director Greg Forbes claims that using biometrics can reduce bag drop times from four minutes down to just 30 seconds.

Yes, but: The aviation industry is a prime target for cybercrime (Air Canada faced a cyberattack literally yesterday), so if handing over vital biometric data just to have extra time to idly browse Relay doesn’t sound like a good deal to you, we get it.—QH