Facial recognition technology serving international airports

Above and beyond the omnipresent question of security since the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, facial recognition also seeks to improve the flow of passenger arrivals and departures in airports. This biometric technology was previously reserved only for digital fingerprints for passports and mobile phones. However, little by little, it interfered with airport security.

Numerous international companies have already taken this course, such as British Airways in Orlando, Jetblue in New York-JFK and Delta in Minneapolis..


Objective #1: Reduce layover times for airplanes to the greatest extent possible

Lufthansa is not the first European airline to have put this type of system in place. The French airports of Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Lyon-Saint Exupéry have already tested this device. A passenger simply positions their face in front of the camera so sensors can detect the pre-recorded areas of that face to identify the passport owner. The 3D camera scans the various facial features: distance between the eyes, edges of the nose, shape of the chin, etc.

The results are enlightening. Everywhere the system was installed, an optimal flow management was recorded with faster boarding:

  • In Orlando, British Airways boarded 240 passengers in ten minutes.
  • In Miami, the process lasts less than two seconds per passenger, with a success rate of 99%*

By 2020, Australia is looking to automate 90% of passenger processing in airports through the use of facial recognition. London is hoping to use it for their subway system. They are looking to move about 70 people per minute per row of turnstiles.

According to a 2018 study, 77% airports and 71% of airlines foresee investing in biometric technologies within three years.


Objective #2: ensure airport security

We can already dream of a futuristic airport where everything is fast and automated. Less time waiting, fewer frustrations and less stress while leaving for vacation. All that remains is for European governments to standardize this type of service in airports within the Schengen area. Facilitating the flow of people under the watchful eye of security remains a priority for creating and promoting commercial, social and cultural exchanges.

59% of airports and 63% of companies foresee employing facial recognition at boarding gates.

It’s this middle ground that remains problematic: how to establish new security regulations without being intrusive? Privacy restrictions are too often violated in the context of national security, and this is currently the case in too many countries. Observing a security framework with integrity becomes a recurring problem with the emergence of new threats, such as cyber security.


In France, no figures are available yet, even though, as everywhere else, we notice the speed with which passengers are processed. Airlocks lighten the work of border control by associating a face with the photo on the passport.

However, the arrival of these innovations has been slowed by the CNIL (The French Data Protection Authority), which ensures the protection of citizens’ civil liberties. All private companies looking to put facial recognition systems in place must first obtain authorization. The biometric data file to be processed must be provided for by a decree from the Council of State, and must obtain an advisory opinion from the CNIL.

*(Source: US Border Patrol)

To read: Safe City or surveillance city: when technology triggers debate!