Emirates will become the very first airline to make use of biometric boarding outside the US after receiving approval from US Customs and Border Protection.

Customers who fly from Dubai to any of the 12 Emirates destinations within the US will soon have the option of choosing facial recognition technology when they get to the departure gates.

The move can cut down the time needed for identity checks to be carried out to as little as just two seconds.  

Biometric equipment located at the terminal includes a mixture of iris and facial recognition.

The tech is able to assist passengers with their check-in, and enables them to gain access to the Emirates Lounge and board their flights just by walking through the airport.

The biometric records of customers are not stored by Emirates – all of the data is securely managed by US Customs and Border Protection.

A pilot programme for the technology was used in the peak months of July and August at the departure gates of the airline’s flights from Dubai to Los Angeles and New York.

The results of the pilot programme were deemed to be highly encouraging.

A number of flights were even able to achieve a maximum 100% biometric boarding success rate, with zero manual checks needed.

Biometric boarding was also implemented by Emirates for passengers on its flights from Washington to Dubai back in June.

The airline is intending to make biometric boarding an available option for all its destinations within the US once all the equipment has been set up, hopefully by the end of this year.

The divisional senior vice president of Emirates Group Security, Dr Abdullah Al Hashimi, says that security and safety will always be Emirates’ main priority.

The airline is continuing its exploration of and investment in innovative methods to allow customers to have easier flights with less hassle, according to Al Hashimi.

Al Hashimi also says that the ultimate aim of the project is to allow passengers to travel without the need for papers, IDs or even passports.

Biometric boarding is another step in Emirates’ process of streamlining with the use of digital technology.

John Wagner from the US Custom and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations says that the agency has been collaborating with stakeholders, such as Emirates, to create a secure but simplified process in line with the modernisation efforts of both the travel industry and US Customs and Border Protection.

Wagner adds that identity verification has been streamlined as the face of a traveller can be compared to their previously provided visa or passport photo.

The customer experience is thus further enhanced while remaining secure.

The biometric system clicks the photo of the passenger at the boarding gate, which is then matched against the US Custom and Border Protection gallery in order to verify the identity of the traveller in barely two seconds.

Anyone who is planning to fly on Emirates or any other airline in the United Arab Emirates will still need to take out travel insurance to safeguard against the potential financial risks associated with travel.


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