JetBlue, Delta Air Lines Test High-Tech Alternatives to Boarding Passes

New applications of technology could swiftly make paper and mobile boarding passes a thing of the past.

by / June 1, 2017

Air travel is getting increasingly more high tech. Take Delta Air Lines, which last month announced the debut of its self-service facial recognition bagging stations in Minnesota's Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. And yesterday, JetBlue made an annoucment of its own: to use facial recognition in place of boarding passes.

“We hope to learn how we can further reduce friction points in the airport experience, with the boarding process being one of the hardest to solve,” said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s executive vice president of customer experience, in a press release.

JetBlue will partner with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and SITA, a global company that provides IT and telecommunication services to the airlines, airports and governments. SITA will provide JetBlue with the technology necessary to connect the airline’s system with the CBP database.

Testing will begin in Boston’s Logan International Airport in the next few weeks; volunteers flying from Boston to Aruba will be photographed at the gate and the images will run through a CBP database.

“This biometric self-boarding program for JetBlue and the CBP is designed to be easy to use. What we want to deliver is a secure and seamless passenger experience,” said SITA Chief Technology Officer Jim Peters in the release.

This new application of technology, and others, could swiftly make paper and mobile boarding passes a thing of the past. Other airlines are watching closely — and making moves of their own.

Delta, for instance, already is testing a system that uses fingerprints in place of boarding passes. At D.C.'s Reagan Washington National Airport, loyalty program members can use their fingerprints to gain entry to Delta’s airport lounge — but the airline plans to extend the use of fingerprint recognition to their boarding process.

The vision, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, is for travelers to one day move through the airport without having to pull out their ID and boarding pass as many times as they do today.

“By transforming current business operations," said CBP Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner John Wagner in the press release, "airlines and airports will have the opportunity to use verified biometrics to ensure a seamless and consistent process for travelers."