Biometric tech just made airport baggage drop-off a whole lot faster

Last updated: 18 October 2019

At every step of the airport experience—from check-in to bag drop, boarding and ultimately through border control—authorities are trying to achieve the required assurance level as to the passenger’s identity. And these checks take time. Fortunately, recent advances in biometric technology mean that future visits to the airport could be improved.

We’ve touched on the benefits of biometric technology and airports in the a previous post on multi-modal biometrics. Today we’re going to explore how it can be applied to the check-in process, and bag drop in particular.

Follow the traveler’s new biometric journey through the airport in our infographic

Clearly airlines and airports want to make sure that only verified passengers drop off bags for the flight. Who hasn’t suffered a flight delay while the airline removed baggage from a passenger who never boarded the plane?

That’s because the current process is flawed. Let’s take the case of an international flight. Even if you’ve already checked in online, you still need to wait in line at the airline counter to check your bags.

How early do you get to the airport?

The way bag drop works today is one of the major contributors to long flight check-in lines, and it’s one of the reasons you need to get to the airport so early.

Here’s how it goes: First you go to a kiosk. You scan your passport or boarding pass, follow the prompts to confirm your identity and travel plans, and declare how many bags you are checking. Then you proceed to the agent for ID verification and getting the bag actually tagged. For airports and airlines that don’t provide kiosks, you’ll do this whole process start to finish with the agent.

Once you’re with the agent they’ll request to see your passport to verify your identity. They’ll then tag your bag and send it off.

On days when the airport is busy and lines are long, this whole process can take a long time. Even if you performed most of these tasks online and were able to simply print your bag tags at a “self-service” kiosk, in the US you are still required to show a photo ID to an agent before being rid of your bag.

Could biometric bag drop actually speed this process up while increasing security?

Biometric bag drop: how would it work?

By the end of 2017, 53 percent of passports worldwide will contain a chip which holds a digital version of your passport information and a high resolution, tamperproof photo (serving as the reference biometric).

So how does this impact baggage drop-off?

Imagine you walk up to the kiosk. You scan your passport, but this time the kiosk can securely read the chip and access the high-resolution image stored on it.

Identity verification software can ensure that the passport is valid using dozens of authenticity checks, including examination of microprint and security threads, special ink and paper, seals and holograms, patterns and geometric settings, and data consistency and authenticity.

The kiosk software can also compare the printed picture on the passport with the picture securely stored on the passport’s chip to make sure that they’re the same and that no one has tampered with the physical document and changed the photo.

Lastly, the kiosk can verify that the person presenting the passport is indeed its rightful owner. A facial recognition camera in the kiosk takes your picture and compares it to the photo on the chip.

By replacing the visual verification traditionally done by the airline agent with computer-based facial recognition software, the burden of ID verification moves from the airline employees to a computer, reducing the human error factor.

When all points are verified, the kiosk will print those baggage tags. You tag your own bags (don’t forget to keep your receipt!) and drop them off at the bag drop station.

But what about the agent who checks your ID before accepting the bag? That’ll still be needed, right?

No, it won’t. Because there will be a final biometric verification at the automated bag drop. So you can conveniently – and securely – drop your bag and move on to the security checkpoint.

The huge plus is that this efficient process means much shorter lines, or no lines at all. And travelers won’t need to get to the airport nearly as early.

And travel just got more secure because we’ve linked the passenger to a verified document, and securely linked the baggage to the passenger by biometrically verifying the combination of the bag and the passenger at the time of the bag drop.

Watch a video of the end-to-end traveler’s journey using biometrics with Fly-To-Gate.

A first class experience for all

In summary, when designing the future traveler’s experience, we must ask ourselves these questions:

  • How can we create a secure link between the passenger and the ID document they present?
  • How can we take the ID verification burden off the employees to spot a fake ID, a tampered document, an imposter using a genuine document, etc.?
  • How can we improve security without creating friction and inefficiencies?
  • How can we in fact improve the traveler’s experience throughout the journey?

Biometric bag drop is one of those cases where we can achieve all these goals. The technology already exists to eliminate some of the most painful waiting times travelers endure. Gemalto looks forward to partnering with airlines and airports as they make this shift.

Read more about Gemalto’s identity and biometrics offer on our Biometrics Resource Center

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