The UK’s number #1 trusted airline, British Airways has begun a pilot trial of facial biometric systems, making physical passports a secondary ID requirement.

Physical documents are expected to continue being used in years to come as proof of identity, while coinciding with advancing digital ID technologies. So, naturally, passengers will still have to carry around their passport and be prepared to show it on request when they reach their destination airport.

More people are experiencing a faster, more efficient security process through the airport which utilises biometrics, the most common modality being face recognition.

The adoption of biometrics provides an alternative way to confirm identity, which favours more the customer experience.

The trial will affect international flights and eliminate the need to use a passport when being processed through security controls. Customers who volunteered to sign up to the pilot trial, based at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5, will be required to submit their biometric and biographic data in advance of travel.

Participants have been invited to scan their face, passport or boarding pass on a smart phone or tablet, which will stored in a pre-held gallery. The airport is fitted with Smart Bio-Pod cameras which can automatically scan and match a live image of the passenger with the pre-held data. 

Selected customers have been invited by BA to take part in the pilot trial, travelling from London Heathrow Terminal 5. They will receive an email three days ahead of their flight.

David Breeze, Operations Transformation Manager at British Airways, explained: “Not only is this the first time that our customers have been able to register their biometric information at home, but it’s the first time they can use it for British Airways’ international flights. This is a secure and efficient tool that makes for a smarter and smoother airport experience, which will reduce the time it takes us to board aircraft”.

“The beauty of this technology is that it also frees our people up to look after more complex customer enquiries and deliver the best possible customer service”. The trial is ongoing for 6 months, after which biometric systems could be rolled out for international flights.

Flights to Malaga, Spain are currently affected by the trial. According to the website, BA customers partaking in the trial can register their data at various touchpoints at Check-In Zone B.

The trial follows the introduction of automated biometrics on British Airways’ domestic flights in 2017.