Despite privacy concerns, SWISS International Air Lines says it is to push ahead with a three-month test onboard its aircraft of cameras powered by artificial intelligence that will conduct the passenger headcount during boarding.
Unlike some airlines that rely on automated passenger reconciliation via boarding pass scanners, SWISS cabin crew are still required to conduct a manual headcount of passengers to make sure stowaways haven’t managed to sneak onboard.
Until now, that process has been completed with a manual ‘clicker’, but SWISS is now turning to AI-powered cameras that will record passengers as they step onboard the aircraft.
The trial will take place at its Zurich hub between April and June in an attempt to validate whether the technology could revolutionise the boarding process. SWISS says it is putting a “top emphasis” on data security and data protection.
The cameras will be temporarily installed in the cabin for the boarding process, and recordings gathered from the trial will be used to train the AI programme.
Initially, cabin crew will still be required to conduct a manual passenger count because it’s still not known whether the camera will work in varying light levels and if the AI can detect, for example, a parent carrying an infant in their arms.
In an attempt to reassure wary passengers, SWISS says recordings will be deleted in full compliance with strict European privacy and data protection laws.
“No persons will be identified from them,” the airline said in a statement. “In addition, only visual images will be recorded, and only in the aircraft door area. No further recordings (such as audio) will be performed.”
“After the trial is concluded, SWISS will analyze the results and then decide on the further course of action as well as on a possible introduction.”
Passengers will be notified before boarding if the trial is taking place on their flight, but SWISS did not say whether there was any way of passengers opting out of be recorded.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.