Is paperless air travel the future? APH compares use of biometric id technology at UK airports

With passenger numbers set to double by 2036* and the Budget announcement on 29 October that e-passport gates will be extended to travellers from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, airports are looking for ways to make the process of travelling through airport security as simple and seamless as possible. Using biometric ID management at airport security checks, which uses facial recognition technology and removes the need to show a passport or boarding pass, is just one of the developments being adopted, with 63% of UK and international airports planning to invest in biometric ID management by 2020**. APH is, therefore, helping savvy travellers keep up-to-date with these developments, by releasing a guide highlighting the software currently available at UK airports.

Facial Recognition System

The guide highlights the biometric technology in place at 18 UK airports including Edinburgh, London Gatwick, Manchester and Heathrow, as well as comparing the number of e-passport gates and automated or biometric self-boarding gates available.


Aberdeen Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• N/A

Biometric id management technology
• N/A

Information collected
• N/A

Available to which passengers
• N/A

Age of passenger
• N/A

Passport
• N/A

Date of trial / completion
• N/A

Birmingham Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• 15 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 12 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available Now

Bristol Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• 10 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 12 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

Cardiff Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• N/A

Available to which passengers
• N/A

Age of passenger
• Aged 18 and over

Passport
• N/A

Date of trial / completion
• To be installed from January 2019

Dublin Airport

Terminal
• Terminals 1 and 2

Security point
• 20 x Automated E-Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• A camera will capture the passenger’s facial image and compare to passport photo using biometric matching software

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 18 and over

Passport
• Irish passengers, EU, EEA and Swiss visitors with an electronic passport

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

Terminal
• Terminals 2

Security point
• 18 x self-service gates at US Pre-clearance – US Customs and Border Protection Facility

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition and Scan of fingerprint for ESTA passengers

Information collected
• A camera will capture the passenger’s facial image and compare to passport photo using biometric matching software

Available to which passengers
• US citizens and ESTA passengers travelling to the US

Age of passenger
• N/A

Passport
• N/A

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

East Midlands Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• 5 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 12 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

Edinburgh Airport

Terminal
• International Arrivals 1

Security point
• 5 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 18 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

Terminal
• International Arrivals 2

Security point
• 10 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 18 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

Glasgow Prestwick Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 18 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available Now

Leeds Bradford Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• N/A

Biometric id management technology
• N/A

Information collected
• N/A

Available to which passengers
• N/A

Age of passenger
• N/A

Passport
• N/A

Date of trial / completion
• N/A

Liverpool Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• N/A

Biometric id management technology
• N/A

Information collected
• N/A

Available to which passengers
• N/A

Age of passenger
• N/A

Passport
• N/A

Date of trial / completion
• N/A

London Gatwick Airport

Terminal
• North Terminal

Security point
• Automated Self-Boarding Gates at the self-service bag drops or at the entrance to the boarding gate room if travelling without checked luggage

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Biometrics (iris scan and facial image), passport details (including passenger name and passport number) and boarding pass details.
Data deleted after 24 hours of being collected.

Available to which passengers
• Passengers travelling with easyJet on select international flights

Age of passenger
• Aged 18 and over (under 18-year olds require consent from legal guardian)

Passport
• N/A

Date of trial / completion
• Trial running for three months

Terminal
• North and South Terminals

Security point
• 50 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 12 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

London Heathrow Airport

Terminal
• Terminal 5

Security point
• Biometric Self—Boarding Gates are currently being opened at each of British Airways’ domestic departure stands

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial-Recognition Digital facial scan of customer recorded at security and matched with face when boarding pass is presented prior to boarding the aircraft.

Data deleted after 30 days of being collected.

Available to which passengers
• Passengers flying with British Airways

Age of passenger
• N/A

Passport
• N/A

Date of trial / completion
• Trialling until December 2018

Terminal
• Terminals 2, 3, 4 and 5

Security point
• 60 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Face-recognition check against the chip in your passport

Available to which passengers
• N/A

Age of passenger
• Aged 12 and over

Passport
• Passports issued in the European Economic Area or Switzerland

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

London Stansted Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• 30 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 12 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

London City Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• 5 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 18 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

Luton Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• 15 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 12 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

Manchester Airport

Terminal
• Terminals 2 and 3

Security point
• e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 18 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

Terminal
• Terminal 1

Security point
• e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 12-17 and travelling with an adult

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now

Newcastle Airport

Terminal
• Arrival Hall

Security point
• 5 x e-Passport Gates

Biometric id management technology
• Facial-Recognition

Information collected
• Facial recognition technology used to verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

Available to which passengers
• All passengers

Age of passenger
• Aged 12 and over

Passport
• UK, EEA and Swiss passports

Date of trial / completion
• Available now


Southampton Airport

Terminal
• N/A

Security point
• N/A

Biometric id management technology
• N/A

Information collected
• N/A

Available to which passengers
• N/A

Age of passenger
• N/A

Passport
• N/A

Date of trial / completion
• N/A

Of the 18 UK airports included in the research, 13 were found to have e-passport gates in place which use facial recognition technology to capture the passenger’s facial image and verify the user’s identity against data stored in the chip in their biometric passport. However, travellers should be aware that most e-Passport gates impose an age restriction of 18 and over, but children aged 12 and over, who are travelling with an adult, are now able to use e-Passport gates at certain airports such as Birmingham, Bristol and London Stansted.

For those travellers flying to the USA via Dublin Airport, US citizens and ESTA passengers can now undertake all US immigration and customs inspections at the US preclearance facility in Terminal 2. This is completed via one of the 18 self-service kiosks during which biometric matching software compares the passenger’s facial image with the passport photo as well as a fingerprint match for ESTA passengers.

With regards to biometric ID management, two of the 18 airports were found to currently offer self-boarding gates to passengers including London Gatwick Airport and London Heathrow Airport. The new software allows passengers to board their flight through a digital facial and iris scan at security, which is then matched with the passenger’s biometric data at the gate when the boarding pass is scanned. Both biometric systems are currently being trialled in partnership with specific airlines, with London Gatwick Airport providing the software for passengers who flew on select international flights with easyJet from the North Terminal during the summer and passengers flying with British Airways on domestic flights from Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport until December 2018. Heathrow Airport has also just announced plans for an end-to-end facial recognition biometrics trial from the summer of 2019, which will create a smoother journey for passengers and provide the airport with the world’s largest deployment of biometric products once the service is complete.

Passengers worried about the use of their personal data when using the self-boarding gates, should be aware that the systems are not compulsory, and they will be given the opportunity to opt-out should they wish. Both airports have also confirmed that the information collected is stored for a certain amount of time, with Gatwick Airport deleting all information after 24 hours and Heathrow Airport deleting all test data within 30 days.

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