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Board 350 passengers in 20 minutes? Facial recognition passes testing at LAX


Boarding a flight at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) may no longer require digging out that boarding pass and passport — all you need is your face. On Monday, March 19, the Lufthansa Group airline announced the launch of biometric boarding at LAX. The announcement comes after the airline successfully tested the tool and boarded about 350 passengers on an A380 in only 20 minutes.

The self-boarding gates use cameras with facial recognition to photograph each passenger’s face. The image is then compared to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) database in real time. Once the system has a match, the computer lists the passenger as boarded, without requiring a boarding pass or passport. The whole process, Lufthansa says, takes only a matter of seconds.

The technology was developed through a partnership with Amadeus, along with collaborating with the CBP, LAX Authority, and Vision-Box. Because the program uses CBP data, the airline doesn’t have to develop their own biometric database.

“CBP is excited to work with air travel industry partners like Lufthansa to demonstrate how facial biometrics can provide a range of traveler benefits for a secure and seamless passenger experience,” John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement.

As air travel continues to grow, airlines are looking for ways to speed up the often tedious process of boarding a plane. Lufthansa approached the problem looking at speeding up the boarding process, but the airline isn’t the only company looking at facial recognition as a security tool. Delta Airlines began testing a face-ID bag check at Minneapolis-St. Paul last summer. In Dubai, passengers walk through an 80-camera virtual tunnel with facial recognition to speed up the security process.

Lufthansa plans to expand the self-boarding gates to additional airports in the U.S.

“Biometric boarding has enormous potential to make the travel experience easier and less stressful,” Amadeus’ Guido Haarmann, managing director for airlines in central Europe, said. “Last year, over 1.6 billion passengers boarded planes using Amadeus Altéa technology. Amadeus’ mission is to develop technology that creates better journeys for travelers worldwide, and it is a pleasure to be working with our established partner Lufthansa to bring this innovative technology to market.”

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