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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Dec 23, 2022

Improving airport efficiency through biometrics

The holiday season means more travels in and out of the country. This could also mean long queues in our bus terminals, seaports, and airports, especially now that people are travelling again after two years of restrictions because of the pandemic. In particular, our airports would feel the surge of travelers.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), which manages 43 facilities with commercial flights, they expect more to travel during the holiday rush, especially with the pent-up demand for tourism this year.

Long queues, however, could be a thing of the past if we start revolutionizing the way we do travel. Now, we can already have online tickets and boarding passes. But more than that, we can also greatly improve airport efficiency through biometrics. Imagine not having to bring out your passport or boarding pass several times in different points of the airport. It would be less hassle for the passenger, and the process would be faster for everyone.

The Bureau of Immigration is already using the border control information system (BCIS) in processing all international passengers entering and exiting the premier ports. When a passenger’s face is captured by camera and his/her fingers scanned, the results are cross-matched with the passport image and images in the BI database.

But we can further improve this and increase airport efficiency with technologies such as biometric boarding wherein passengers use facial biometrics to check bags, pass through security, and board their flights without ever showing a boarding pass.

For instance, Vision-Box — a leading provider of automated border control systems and electronic identity solutions — said that its biometric boarding is capable of boarding 400 people in 20 minutes, half of the normal boarding time.

I experienced this smart airport facility at the Brussels International Airport when I participated in the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Brussels, Belgium as part of the Philippine delegation of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

In fact, after the summit, I was invited by Vision-Box for a tour of their headquarters in Lisbon, Portugal where I learned more about the biometric automated border control. This technology is present in 85 countries and allows immigration time of only three minutes, and can even go as low as 18 seconds for the more efficient airports.

I believe more citizens are now accepting new technologies after experiencing their benefits during the pandemic. In the 2021 Global Passenger Survey (GPS) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), it reported that 73 percent of passengers were willing to share their biometric data to improve airport processes. This was 46 percent in 2019.

Biometrics has the potential to create a more hygienic passenger experience by reducing touchpoints in airports. Here in our country, the new Clark terminal is one of the first in the country to deploy contactless passenger solutions, such as 24/7 self-service check-in kiosks, automated bag drops, state-of-the-art baggage handling system, and integrated security screening.

I think it is time we push for these airport innovations to create a safer, seamless passenger experience, and increase efficiency not only for the sake of regular travelers, including our overseas Filipino workers, but also to encourage more foreign tourists to visit our country.

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