Security Hardware and Technology

JetBlue Launches First-of-Its-Kind Self-Boarding Program Using Facial Recognition

JetBlue is testing out a pilot self-boarding program that uses facial recognition for identification on flights between Boston and Aruba starting this month. A quick photo match at the gate verifies JetBlue customers to board.

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JetBlue is partnering with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and SITA for a collaborative test of a new facial recognition paperless and deviceless self-boarding process as part of ongoing trials to implement a biometric exit process in the future. JetBlue is the first airline to integrate with the CBP to use biometrics and facial recognition technology to verify customers at the gate during boarding.

The program is under way on JetBlue flights from Boston’s Logan International Airport to Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport. Customers who opt-in can put away boarding passes and devices. No prior enrollment or registration is required to participate. Travelers on these designated flights simply step up to the camera for a quick photo.

The custom-designed camera station connects to the CBP to instantly match the image to passport, visa, or immigration photos in the CBP database and verify flight details. The traveler is notified on an integrated screen above the camera when he or she is cleared to proceed to the jet bridge.

According to the airline, the setup will move JetBlue crew members from behind the counter to interact with customers and assist throughout the process. Crew members are equipped with JetBlue issued iPad minis, giving them mobility to monitor and manage the boarding process while interacting with customers.

“We hope to learn how we can further reduce friction points in the airport experience, with the boarding process being one of the hardest to solve,” said Joanna Geraghty, executive vice president, customer experience, JetBlue. “Self-boarding eliminates boarding pass scanning and manual passport checks. Just look into the camera and you’re on your way.”

The biometric solution is being provided by SITA, a global provider of IT, communications and border security to airlines, airports, and governments. SITA is delivering the technology and connectivity to perform facial capture and integration with the CBP database as well as integration with JetBlue’s departure control system.

“CBP looks forward to engaging closely with air travel partners, like JetBlue, to better understand how CBP’s biometric exit program will support their efforts to streamline the travel process by using advanced biometric technology,” said CBP’s Office of Field Operations, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, John Wagner. “By transforming current business operations, airlines and airports will have the opportunity to use verified biometrics to ensure a seamless and consistent process for travelers.”

Jim Peters, chief technology officer, SITA, said, “This biometric self-boarding program for JetBlue and the CBP is designed to be easy to use. What we want to deliver is a secure and seamless passenger experience. We use sophisticated technologies to enable biometric checks and for CBP authorization to be sent quickly to the airline’s systems. This is the first integration of biometric authorization by the CBP with an airline and may prove to be a solution that will be quick and easy to roll out across U.S. airports.”

JetBlue, CBP, and SITA are hoping the success of the program will show how technology can make the boarding process simple and seamless for the traveler while enhancing U.S. national security through the implementation of biometric exit.