Air Canada is now offering biometric boarding to travelers flying to Canada from the United States. The optional service will initially be available only on flights departing from San Francisco International Airport (SFO), but will eventually expand to other US airports.
The feature is being delivered through a partnership with US Customs and Border Protection, which will use facial recognition to verify people’s identities at the boarding gate. Those that wish to opt out of the program can still choose to submit their passport and their boarding pass for a manual inspection with a gate agent.
If a traveler decides to go through with the scan, the new photo will be matched to images that the CBP has on file with its Traveler Verification Service. Those images are pulled from passports, visas, and other documents that have already been provided to the US government.
The use of biometric identity verification reflects Air Canada’s broader interest in contactless technologies, which can facilitate a more streamlined passenger journey while reducing the risk of diseases like COVID-19. Other initiatives include TouchFree Bag Check for flights leaving from Canada, and smartphone ordering for people in its Maple Leaf Lounges. The airline also hopes to bring biometric boarding to Canadian airports in addition to US airports, and is currently exploring the steps it will need to take in order to do so.
“Customers have told us they value streamlined processes and we continue to evaluate and assess additional touchless initiatives to further advance safe and secure travel while enhancing the overall travel experience,” said Air Canada Product VP Andrew Yiu.
The biometric boarding service will complement CBP’s Simplified Arrival system, which debuted at SFO in September. The system is already available at several other airports, including Los Angeles International Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
In the meantime, Emirates recently became the first airline outside of the US to receive CBP clearance to conduct face-based biometric boarding. The decision allows the airline to use facial recognition to screen passengers flying from Dubai International Airport to the United States.
December 9, 2020 – by Eric Weiss