Facial recognition could help eliminate queues at the airport. Source: Shutterstock

KLIA trials facial recognition for a seamless air travel experience

Airports can be stressful places, so it’s no surprise that they are turning to new technologies to improve the customer experience, in efforts to keep travellers passing through.

As part of Malaysia’s ongoing digital transformation initiative, which seeks to create a seamless journey from the airport entrance all the way to the boarding gate, Malaysia’s KL International Airport (KLIA), is piloting its ‘single token’ journey.

The way this works is as such; upon registering, data of a traveler’s travel documents, boarding passes, and facial biometrics will be gathered, digitized and stored in the form of a token for the passenger.

Passengers can then use this token as a form of verification through all of the airport’s touchpoints, including baggage drop and security checks, without needing to present their physical passport or boarding passes.

According to Malaysia Airports’ Information Technology General Manager, Lee Yiang Ming, the time reduction at each touchpoint is drastic. What used to take 30 seconds to one minute to pass each touchpoint is now reduced to about two seconds.

As such, passengers will be able to spend less time in queues, and less time fumbling through their belongings for ID as they pass through the airport.

KLIA is by no means the first airport to employ biometric data to help improve efficiency for travelers. Changi Airport’s Terminal 4, for example, has its end-to-end Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) program, where all passenger touch-points – from check-in and bag drop to immigration and boarding – can be taken care of by biometric technology.

Meanwhile, US airline Delta introduced biometric security in efforts to improve customer experience and free up staff time, enabling passengers to use facial recognition technology “from curb to gate”. According to airline’s CEO, Ed Bastian, the airline wants to transform travel into “a part of the journey to look forward to.”

Indeed, biometric security, such as facial recognition, can greatly enhance the convenience of air travel, but the use of this personal data does come with privacy concerns as well.

The facial recognition technology is set to be piloted at KLIA for three months in a partnership between Malaysia Airlines and SITA.

“Our main focus in moving forward is to strengthen Malaysia’s position as an aviation hub. We will ensure that services at our airports are at par with other mega hubs around the world,” said Acting Group Chief Executive Officer of Malaysia Airports, Dato’ Mohd Shukrie Mohd Salleh.

“Harnessing technology for this purpose is one way we can simplify airport processes for our guests.”