The World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and other stakeholders are partnering in a new series of biometric-enabled technology demonstrations aimed at making international travel more seamless and secure.
The WTTC said in late October that a pilot evaluation slated to begin in the first half of 2019 will feature the deployment of cameras at departure gates at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and an airport in London for round-trip flights between the cities. A WTTC spokeswoman tells HSR that DFW is planning to fund the camera deployment at its airport, which will enable CBP to verify that foreign nationals are leaving the U.S. in accordance with their visas while simultaneously allowing passengers to use their facial image in lieu of boarding passes to proceed to the plane.
The London-based WTTC is also working with American Airlines on the biometric evaluation.
The ultimate goal of the WTTC is to help facilitate a seamless end-to-end experience for travellers.
CBP is mandated to implement biometric entry and exit checks on foreign nationals arriving and departing the U.S. For the most part, the agency is relying on fingerprint checks to help process arrivals but is transitioning to facial recognition.
For exit checks, CBP more than two years ago decided it would use cameras deployed at airline departure gates for facial recognition checks of all travelers on international flights. While the mandates only apply to foreign nationals, it’s impractical to segregate U.S. citizens and foreign nationals from each other at the departure queues.
However, with limited budgets, CBP is enlisting stakeholders such as airports and airlines to pay for the camera technology while the agency supplies the backend facial recognition matching system. The matching system, called the Traveler Verification System, provides real-time matching for CBP for security purposes but the same check can also be used by airlines to verify travelers belong on a particular flight, eliminating the need to present a boarding pass.
The WTTC spokeswoman says that the council has invited the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to “collaborate” on the pilot effort at DFW. TSA is using facial recognition technology to in an evaluation at Los Angeles International Airport at a security checkpoint to verify the identities of passengers in the PreCheck trusted traveler program. TSA wants to expand these evaluations to other airports.
The WTTC’s vision, which aligns with the sales pitch given by CBP, is to trial biometric technology at every stage of the travel process, from booking, check-in, through airports, airline boarding, border management, care hire, hotel, cruise and during the journey. It says that in the first half of 2019 trials for all of these biometric touch points will be underway. Discussions are underway about using biometrics at different touch points and details will be announced in early 2019, the spokeswoman says.
“Through the work of CBP, the United States is leading the implementation of facial biometric technology, which is universally recognized as the best solution for a seamless travel experience for the traveler and for increased security,” says Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the WTTC.
In addition to working with CBP, TSA, DFW and American Airlines [AAL], the WTTC is also partnering with Hilton [HLT] and MSC Cruises.
The WTTC says that through its Seamless Traveller Journey Initiative, it is working with stakeholders in different regions of the world to facilitate biometric trials. The council is planning to include cruises on a trial in Asia that will be announced in 2019.
The WTTC says that according to research, nearly one million jobs could be created in the U.S. travel industry by using biometric technology throughout the travel journey.