Biometric Boarding Takes Off At Dallas Fort Worth

Earlier this month, American Airlines began to introduce biometric boarding for its passengers departing on select flights from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). According to American Airlines’ Tuesday press release, this is first being rolled out in Terminal D for international flights. No boarding pass required – just your face, something most travelers keep with them at all times!

Biometric Boarding Takes Off At Dallas Fort Worth
Facial recognition now replaces the scanning of a boarding pass. Photo: Delta News Hub via Flickr

According to Business Traveller, the face scans are “instantly verified to stored passport images with the US Customs and Border Patrol”. However, sometimes a passenger cannot be instantly cleared using the new biometric system. In these cases, gate agents will “manually identify them using the normal clearance process”. The article goes on to say that US passport holders will also have the option of skipping this biometric clearance in favor of being processed manually.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should stow your passport in the bottom of your carry on bag, where it will take five minutes to dig out. Gate agents will still be checking that travelers have their passports upon departure.

Progressive rollout

Biometric Boarding Takes Off At Dallas Fort Worth
The tech was first rolled out at LAX. Photo: cbpphotos via Flickr

With American Airlines as DFW’s largest carrier, the airline offers 91 daily international departures to 63 destinations worldwide. American plans to expand this biometric boarding feature further. It will go to approximately 75 international gates throughout Terminals A, B, C and D by the end of this year.

“American is committed to ensuring that DFW remains a premier gateway, as its largest hub, implementing new technology like biometric boarding gives us the opportunity to enhance the airport experience in partnership with CBP. This new technology allows us to provide a more seamless and modern experience for both our customers and team members.” -Cedric Rockamore, Vice President of DFW Hub Operations at American Airlines

American Airlines first introduced biometric boarding earlier this year at Los Angeles International Airport.

The opportunities

The opportunity to process and board passengers for large flights is already showing itself. In April, Lufthansa boarded 350 passengers onto an Airbus A380 within 20 minutes. The airline began trialing the one-step boarding for some flights from Los Angeles in 2018.

Emirates has been trialing its “OneID” system that aims to do away with having to show your passport anywhere in the airport. The trial is taking place on select flights between Australia and London later this year. Just like American Airlines at LAX and DFW, automated facial recognition will be taking the place of document checks everywhere.

Alexandre de Juniac, the Director General and CEO of IATA certainly seems on board with it:

“Every traveller will appreciate the convenience of getting from the curb to the gate without ever having to show a paper passport or boarding pass,”

The challenges

However, certain challenges are present in the realm of facial recognition. In a May 2019 article from the BBC, it was reported that a Home Office assessment found a particular facial recognition system was only half as good as the human eye, saying that,

“Out of the initial 211 searches, the automated facial search of PND identified just 20 true matches, whereas visual examination by the tester identified a total of 56 matches.”

The assessment was looking at the ability of facial recognition software to cope with black and ethnic minority faces. In fact, it has become a key concern for those worried about the technology. Some claim that the software often trains using predominantly white faces.

Furthermore, UK police’s former head of facial recognition had knowledge that skin color was indeed an issue. At an April 2014 meeting, Durham Police Chief Constable Mike Barton said:

“…ethnicity can have an impact on [facial recognition] search accuracy.”

Dallas Fort-Worth Airport
Dallas Fort-Worth Airport from above Photo: Todd MacDonald via Wikimedia Commons


Overall, as long as there’s a human present for assistance, this should make the boarding process better. It may only take four seconds for the gate agent to flip to the passport’s photo page and two seconds to verify your identity. However, those seconds add up when boarding a B777 or A380 with hundreds of passengers.

“Facial recognition makes the process for verifying the identity of travelers more efficient, accurate and secure. This technology also enhances the boarding process for international flights, which is a win-win for airlines and travelers.” -Judson W. Murdock II, CBP Director of the Houston Field Office.

Are you one of the passengers that have already experienced this technology? How did it go? Let us know by leaving a comment!