Airline Testing Biometrics to Replace Boarding Tickets


In the future, passengers may use finger scanners instead of boarding passes to check-in for their flight. (Photo: CLEAR)

Boarding passes can be real drag. They bend, they rip, and oftentimes they get lost.

But one airline is looking to change the boarding process, using technology that will make you feel like a secret agent.

Alaska Airlines is currently testing a machine that scans fingerprints of passengers as they go through the boarding process. Instead of displaying a paper ticket and ID, the kiosk uses biometrics to authenticate a person based on their physical characteristics.

According to a report by Mercury News, Alaska Airlines started the trial program in April using 200 passengers who frequently fly out of Mineta San Jose International Airport. The airline has partnered with CLEAR, a security firm that expedites the security process for passengers who pay a yearly fee of $179. Until now, CLEAR customers used boarding passes and membership cards to go through security. Today, they have their fingers scanned, and those in the trial program don’t have to use boarding passes.

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Alaska Airlines and CLEAR have partnered to make the boarding process faster. (Photo: CLEAR)

But the scanners are not flawless. Some participants have complained that it’s difficult to remember their seat assignment without a paper reminder, while others believe that finger scanning adds time to the boarding process.

“Instead of taking half a second it took 2.5 seconds,” said Paul Pindell, one of the trial participants. “But if you multiplied that by 150 people on a plane that could slow things down.”

In fact, Mercury News reports that a woman testing the new system had to scan her fingerprints more than 12 times before she was eventually led through a metal detector.

Alaska Airlines and CLEAR will have to work out accessibility and security concerns with these innovative kiosks, but if all goes as planned, the boarding process could get a whole lot faster for millions of passengers.

This futuristic process isn’t the airlines first high-tech improvement. Last year, it installed fingerprint scanners at club lounges in Seattle, Anchorage, Portland and Los Angeles.

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