Passengers travelling with Emirates, the Dubai-based carrier, will soon be able to choose facial recognition technology at the departure gates at 12 destinations in the US.

Emirates has become the first airline outside the America to receive approval for biometric boarding from the US Customs Border Protection (CBP).

The technology was trialled at the departure gates of Emirates’ flights from Dubai to New York and Los Angeles through the peak periods in July and August. The results were described as “encouraging” with some flights achieving 100% biometric boarding and zero manual checks. The airline aims to make biometric boarding available across its US destination airports by the end of the year. These include: New York, Newark, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

The introduction of facial recognition at its US departure gates is expected to reduce the time taken for identity checks to two seconds or less. No pre-registration is required, and customers may also choose to not use the technology. All data is managed securely by CBP.

“Our ultimate aim is to help our passengers travel paperless, without the need for passports and IDs,” said Dr Abdulla Al Hashimi, divisional senior vice president, Emirates Group Security.

Biometric boarding is one more step in streamlining processes at our hub using digital technology, saving our customers time and giving them peace of mind. We are talking with authorities of several countries to make security using facial recognition technology more acceptable and accessible.

Meanwhile John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commission, office of field operations, US CBP added: “CBP has been working with stakeholders like Emirates to build a simplified, but secure travel process that aligns with CBP’s and the travel industry’s modernisation efforts. By comparing a traveller’s face to their passport or visa photo that was previously provided for the purpose of travel, we have streamlines identity verification that further secures and enhances the customer experience.”


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