International Travel

Fri, 6 Jul, 2018Danielle McCarthy

Passport-free travel? New technology changing the airport experience

Passport-free travel? New technology changing the airport experience

Yesterday, a select number of Australian passengers started using a different type of passport at Sydney Airport.

A trial involving Qantas passengers on selected international flights is testing facial recognition programming instead of the traditional passport.

The new technology will allow travellers to pass through most stages of the airport without a passport or boarding pass.

Their faces will be scanned as they make their way through check-in, baggage drop, lounge access and boarding stages. The only time they need to present their passport is at immigration.

In the future, the biometric technology will also allow for travellers to have mobile check-in and automated border processing.

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said the new technology will make catching an international flight faster and easier.

“We’re very excited that select Qantas passengers now have the chance to experience this highly sophisticated technology as part of this landmark trial,” Mr Culbert said.

“In the future, there will be no more juggling passports and bags at check-in, and digging through pockets or smartphones to show your boarding pass — your face will be your passport and your boarding pass at every step of the process.”

The face scan will also enable passengers to be tracked through the terminal.

Qantas chief customer officer Vanessa Hudson said the airline was focused on using the technology to improve customer experience.

“There is an increasing need for airlines and airports to offer faster and more convenient airport experiences and we’re excited to see what results the trial produces,” Ms Hudson said.

“Qantas customers will not only be able to check in for their flight using the technology, it is also available for our lounge staff who can create a more personalised experience when passengers arrive.”

Last year, the new airport system was announced along with new counter-terror measures. State premiers shared their support for the measures, saying that public safety was more important than civil liberties.

“Notional considerations of civil liberties do not trump the very real threat, the very real threat of terror in our country today,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said at the time.

“We are going to have to curtail the rights and freedoms of a small number of people in order to keep the vast majority of Australians safe.”

In May, the Human Rights Law Centre announced its concerns in regard to using the face scanning technology in Australia.

The Centre's concerns are:

• “The very substantial erosion of privacy that would accompany upscaling government capacity to link and share personal information in the ways permitted by the two bills, including the manner in which the proposed regime would sidestep privacy protections available in federal and state law.”

• “The breadth of purposes — and entities — that the proposed regime would permit as a lawful foundation for use and sharing of biometric information, encompassing uses for which one may readily understand the need to limit privacy as well as other uses that appear far less pressing.”

• “The distinct lack of evidence as to the need for such a broad and permissive regime.”

• “The absence of detail as to how the Government in fact proposes to regulate the capabilities for which it seeks parliamentary approval.”

The safeguards in place to protect the biometric data are unclear.

What are your thoughts on using a face scan as a passport? Let us know in the comments below.