Gatwick and easyJet are to trial of ‘end-to-end biometrics’ – where personal data collected at the airport’s self-service bag drops will be recognised by new automated self-boarding gates.
The aim is to simplify and speed up the process for passengers while reducing the risk of human error.
The faster, more efficient process also has the potential to improve aircraft departure times.
EasyJet ground operations director Karen Cox said: “We are trialling new facial recognition technology at Gatwick for the first time which, if rolled out, could revolutionise the boarding experience for our customers.
“The technology streamlines the processes our customers go through, saving them time and enhancing their travel experiences.
“Whilst still in its very early stages this project is clearly consistent with our digital strategy of continuing to innovate to make passengers’ journeys easier at every stage of their interaction with us – from searching and browsing for a flight through to stepping off the aircraft in their destination.“
The new self-boarding technology will identify each passenger and verify that their passport, face and boarding card all match in a process claimed to take less than 20 seconds.
Passengers wanting to take part in the trial who are travelling without checked luggage will be able to have their data collected at the entrance to the boarding gate area.
The trial will run for at least three months so that around 10,000 passengers take part on 43 easyJet Gatwick routes.
The range should allow enough meaningful information to be gathered for the airport to spot trends and adapt the technology.
Gatwick will be looking at how long each interaction takes, what this means for queue times, how it simplifies the passenger journey, how passengers interact with the technology and how intuitive the process is.
The technology will be adapted and adjusted once all the data is gathered, before taking the idea forward for airport-wide implementation.
The boarding process has traditionally been handled by airline staff, but can now be automated with the technology, reducing queue times and freeing up employees to assist those who need it most.
Airport chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said: “With the rate of growth we have experienced, it is essential we are able to find more efficient ways of processing passengers through the airport safely and securely.
“Self-boarding technology is the obvious next piece in the jigsaw following extensive investment in our automated check-in and security processing areas.”
The boarding process follows Gatwick introducing self-service bag drop technology three years ago, and the opening of the largest self-service bag drop facility.
Five airlines are using the self-service bag drop technology at Gatwick with a further five due to adopt the technology soon.