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UK airline first to trial 2.5 second scanners where your face replaces your passport

British Airways/YouTube

British Airways has become the first UK airline to trial biometric technology that could replace passport checks with a 2.5-second face scan.

Passengers on the carrier’s flights from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to Malaga are the first to be given the option to try the airport’s new “smart” identity checks, which involve having your face scanned instead of showing your passport at the gate.

Customers flying on the route during the next six months “will be invited to scan their face, passport and boarding pass on their smartphone or tablet ahead of travel, with this information being kept safe and secure,” said the airline.

As an incentive, those who opt into the trial can use the terminal’s Fast-Track security lane and get free priority boarding.

When they arrive at the airport, “smart Bio-Pod cameras” will scan each passenger’s face, “allowing them to keep their passport safely in their pockets until they reach their destination,” says British Airways.

A short video posted by the airline shows the process, with a passenger uploading his boarding pass QR code, a photo of his passport, and then a photo of his face before going through security.

“Our purpose-built cameras will recognise their face and know who they are,” says the narrator.

“All they’ll need to do is show their boarding pass at security.”

“At the boarding gate, it takes approximately 2.5 seconds to recognise each customer, which will speed up the whole boarding process,” the video promises.

Those who aren’t confident trying the technology at home can go to the airline’s Zone B check in at Terminal 5 and be helped through the process at self-service kiosks.

David Breeze, operations transformation manager for British Airways, said: “Not only is this the first time that our customers have been able to register their biometric information at home, but it’s the first time they can use it for British Airways’ international flights. This is a secure and efficient tool that makes for a smarter and smoother airport experience, which will reduce the time it takes us to board aircraft.

“The beauty of this technology is that it also frees our people up to look after more complex customer enquiries and deliver the best possible customer service.”

It comes as Heathrow announces that it could scrap security restrictions on liquids in hand luggage within the next two years.

Due to new technology, travellers will be able to pass through airport security with large bottles of liquids and without removing laptops from their hand luggage.

John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow, told The Times: “We are slowly rolling them out.

“We have just started the expansion of the security area in Terminal 3 which will have more CT scanners and have a deadline of mid-2024 from the DfT. By then the normal passenger experience will be that liquids stay in bags.”

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