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Emirates Becomes First Non-American Airline to Receive Approval for Biometric Boarding to the United States

Emirates Becomes First Non-American Airline to Receive Approval for Biometric Boarding to the United States

Emirates Becomes First Non-American Airline to Receive Approval for Biometric Boarding to United States

Emirates has become the first non-American airline approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for biometric boarding on flights to the United States from its hub in Dubai.  The technology has been tested on flights to New York and Los Angeles since July and will now be rolled out on all services to the 12 destinations across the United States served by Emirates.

A number of foreign airlines have been using biometric boarding for international flights departing several U.S. airports since 2017 but this is the first time the technology has been approved for use on flights entering the United States.  Los Angeles International Airport has one of the biggest uptakes of the system with Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines all making use of biometric boarding.

Instead of manually scanning a boarding pass and then visually checking a passport, biometric boarding works by taking a photo of a passenger and then verifiying their identity against the CBP database within seconds.  Airlines that have used biometric boarding for some time say that in many cases the time to board an aircraft has been halved.

British Airways has managed to board 240 passengers in less than 10-minutes using the tech at Orlando airport, and can now board a full Airbus A380 in Los Angeles in as little as 22 minutes – by comparison, standard boarding would take in excess of 45-minutes.

And despite some privacy concerns, passengers are also in favour of biometric boarding.  In fact, according to Atlanta-based Delta Airlines, 72 per cent of passengers prefer facial recognition to standard boarding.  Emirates, meanwhile, is quick to allay privacy fears, explaining that the airline does not collect or store any biometric data.

Photo Credit: Emirates

“Our ultimate aim is to help our passengers travel paperless, without the need for passports and IDs,” explains Emirate’s head of group security, Dr Abdulla Al Hashimi.

“Biometric boarding is one more step in streamlining processes at our hub using digital technology, saving our customers time and giving them peace of mind,” he continued.

Dr Hashimi said Emirates was currently in talks with “several” countries about using biometric boarding on more routes.

In the other direction, Emirates is currently only using biometric boarding from Washington Dulles airport but plans to introduce the technology at all of its other U.S. outstations in the coming months.

Last year, Emirates shared a vision of using biometric technology throughout the airport experience – from check-in to entering the lounge and strolling through a “smart tunnel” to clear immigration.  The same vision is shared by Delta who claims they are creating a “curb-to-gate” biometric terminal at its Atlanta hub.

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