Sydney Airport will conduct a trial of “couch-to-gate” facial recognition technology in an effort to make airplane travel more convenient and easier.
The facial biometrics trial will be offered on a voluntary basis to Qantas international passengers, with the majority of pre-boarding processes, including check-in, bag drop, lounge access and boarding to be completed using facial recognition.
Special cameras will be placed at each of these locations to track the participating passengers. It’s a significant expansion of the Federal Government’s SmartGate technology, which is used to process passengers’ passports through immigration.
Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said the trial is likely to run for three months and is all about improving the customer experience.
“In the future, there will be no more juggling passports and bags at check-in and digging through pockets or smartphones to show your boarding pass - your face will be your passport and your boarding pass at every step of the process,” Culbert said.
“We’re very excited that select Qantas passengers now have the chance to experience this highly sophisticated technology as part of this landmark trial. We’ve worked with Qantas from the outset and are delighted to be partnering with them as we trial this technology.”
The technology has been in development since early 2017.
Qantas chief customer officer Vanessa Hudson said the trial will improve the efficiency of the check-in process for passengers.
“There is an increasing need for airlines and airports to offer faster and more convenient airport experiences and we’re excited to see what results the trial produces,” Hudson said.
“Qantas customers will not only be able to check in for their flight using the technology; it is also available for our lounge staff who can create a more personalised experience when passengers arrive.”
The announcement has been met with criticism from privacy and civil rights advocates, who argue that the new technology is invasive, open to breaches and prone to false-positives.
Sydney Airport said that consent is required from all passengers that participate in the trial, and that it “adheres to the strictest privacy standards and complex with all relevant legislation”.