Emirates Becomes First International Airline To Use Biometric Boarding On US Bound Flights

Emirates is now approved to offer biometric boarding on flights to the United States. The US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) approved the Dubai-based airline for facial recognition boarding on flights to their 12 destinations in the United States. Customers, however, will not be required to use the system if they are not comfortable with the method. This development was announced in a press release from the airline.

Emirates is now offering biometric boarding on U.S. bound flights. Photo: Emirates

How does Emirates’ biometric boarding system work?

Emirates passengers will have the option to opt-in for biometric boarding. This system is designed to save on the time it takes to board some of their massive aircraft, like the A380. The system will identify passengers based on facial recognition technology. This is similar to what Delta Air Lines and American Airlines have done at some of their hubs.

Biometric Boarding
Biometric boarding will use facial recognition technology. Photo: Emirates

Emirates made it clear that the CBP will manage the data and not the airline itself. If passengers choose this system for boarding, Emirates will not store any biometric data from the customers. However, some passengers may still have privacy concerns.

The system itself will match the photo of the passenger taken at the boarding gate with the CBP’s records of the passenger. In real-time, the system will be able to verify the person’s identity in two seconds or less. Unfortunately, passengers who do not have records in the CBP’s database will need a manual check at the gate.

Did Emirates trial biometric boarding?

Over the course of July and August, Emirates tested the system on flights to New York and Los Angeles from their hub in Dubai. According to the carrier, these tests were a success. Several flights hit 100% biometric boarding which means zero manual checks.

Emirates 777
Emirates hit 100% biometric boarding on some flights to the United States during trials. Photo: Emirates

When will this be available on all US-bound flights?

Emirates expect the final equipment to be in place by year’s end. Thus, the airline should be able to offer 100% biometric boarding abilities on all US-bound flights from early 2020. These include the following destinations:

  • New York (JFK and Newark)
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington D.C.
  • Orlando
  • Fort Lauderdale
Emirates A380
Emirates serves 12 destinations in the United States- some with A380s. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Since some of these flights are operated by superjumbo A380s, biometric boarding should help Emirates reduce the amount of time it takes to board an aircraft. Although, this may not significantly help with congestion inside the aircraft. Nevertheless, the time savings may stack up and end up beneficial for the UAE carrier. Although, it is unclear to what extent. Furthermore, this may end up reducing Emirates’ need for gate agents which could result in a reduction in personnel.

Would you prefer to board an aircraft using biometric boarding? How do you think this will impact Emirates? Let us know in the comments!