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Travellers may soon be able to skip all document checks when flying

New standards being introduced by IATA may lead to the complete digitisation of all pre-flight airport processes.

Facial recognition identity could speed up passage through airports.

The day may be coming when travellers can breeze through an airport, even when flying internationally with luggage, without stopping at a check-in desk or having any documents checked prior to boarding a plane.

According to a new One ID Initiative being spearheaded by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), travellers may be able to prove their eligibility to enter a country even before they depart from their first airport.

Travellers would first need to create and verify a digital identity using biometrics linked to their smartphone which would be sent through their airline’s app.

Then, evidence of all required documentation, such as passports, visas and health checks, could be sent in advance to government authorities in the passenger’s stopover and final destinations.

Smartphones controlling every pre-flight step could soon be a reality.

Once checked, a digital ‘approval of admissibility’ would be sent, with this data also shared with the airline and the traveller bestowed with an ‘Ok to Fly’ tag. Travellers would then identify themselves at each stage of the pre-flight process through this same biometric data, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition.

The same biometric data would also suffice as a digital boarding pass, meaning no further checks prior to boarding the plane would be required.

To maintain data security, IATA says only encrypted approved credentials would be sent for checking, not the data behind them, with nothing stored on any database at any stage.

This pre-approval could also in theory eliminate passport and visa checks when checking-in for a flight, however IATA says it is likely customs and border control officers will at least want to sight original documents on arrival for the foreseeable future.

It’s expected that if One ID is ever rolled out, established manual processes would be retained for travellers who prefer not to embark on a fully digital pre-flight process.

Travellers identifying themselves only with their fingerprint may make travel more efficient, IATA says.

IATA Senior Vice President for Operations, Safety and Security, Nick Careen, said enabling passengers to prove their admissibility to their airline before they get to the airport was a major step forward.

“The recent IATA Global Passenger survey found that 83% of travellers are willing to share immigration information for expedited processing,” Careen said.

“That is why we are confident this will be a popular option for travellers when it is implemented.

“There is good incentive for airlines and governments as well with improved data quality, streamlined resourcing requirements and identification of admissibility issues before passengers get to the airport.”

IATA added that a more streamlined and digital process would benefit airlines by allowing them to cut costs on manual processes and invest more into improving value-added services for customers.

In turn, airports would be able to reduce queues and relieve pressure on airport infrastructure, which could in turn lead to more efficient operations, more flights and greater revenue opportunities.

IATA Head Customer Experience and Facilitation, Louise Cole, said travellers can be confident that this process will be both convenient and secure.

“A key point is that information is shared on a need-to-know basis. While a government may request detailed personal information to issue a visa, the only information that will be shared with the airline is that the traveller has a visa and under which conditions.

“And by keeping the passenger in control of their own data, no large databases are being built that need protecting. By design we are building simplicity, security and convenience.”


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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 25 January 2023

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