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Air New Zealand, BA Trial Biometric Tech for Int’l Flights

Air New Zealand has completed a “successful trial” using biometric verification at the boarding gate at Los Angeles International Airport, the carrier announced Wednesday.

Upon entering the United States, passengers are offered the opportunity to register with Customs and Border Protection using their biometric information. At automated airport kiosks, the data then is used to verify their identity at the time of boarding. Passengers who use the new technology do not need to review passports or scan boarding passes, though they still need to carry them. 

The biometric information is secured by CPB and not directly accessible to Air New Zealand or any other airline using the service, according to the carrier. 

“The feedback from the more than 1,000 customers who have used this technology to board our flights has been really positive,” Air New Zealand chief digital officer Nikhil Ravishankar said in a statement. “Using biometrics at the boarding gate is only the beginning, and we’re in talks with industry players, globally and here in New Zealand, about how we can use biometric technology throughout the whole airport process.”

The airline said the next U.S. destination to receive the technology will be San Francisco, “followed by the airline’s other U.S. ports,” although it did not specify a timeline.

BA Trials at Heathrow 

The Air New Zealand announcement comes one day after British Airways said it had launched a “smart technology trial” at London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 for international flights, allowing customers to travel through the airport without having to show their passports. The carrier has been using automated biometric technology on domestic flights since 2017.

British Airways will invite select customers via an email three days ahead of their flight. Those who sign up will scan their face, passport and boarding pass on their smartphone or tablet ahead of travel. When they arrive at the airport, Smart Bio-Pod cameras verify their identity, according to British Airways. Participating customers also can register their identity at various touchpoints at Check-In Zone B, according to the carrier.

The trial will run for six months on British Airways flights to Malaga, Spain. Customers who opt in will be allowed to use the fast-track security lane and will receive complimentary priority boarding. If the trial is successful, the carrier expects to extend it to more international flights.

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