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No More Boarding Passes?

People Walking Through Airport, Fingerprint Boarding Passes, Travel

Zia Soleil/Getty Images

New biometric technology identifies people through physical characteristics

Someday soon you may need nothing more than your fingerprint or face to clear airport security and board your flight.

Delta Air Lines has begun testing fingerprint identification for entry into its airport Sky Club at Washington Reagan National Airport, in cooperation with the private company Clear. It plans to test fingerprint scanning for bag check, security, and boarding next. And starting next month, JetBlue will test the use of facial scans to match travelers flying from Boston to Aruba with their passport or visa photos in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection database.

Experts say this biometric technology to identify people through physical characteristics eventually will become an integral part of the airport security screening process.

Gary Leff, airline industry expert and author of the “View from the Wing” blog, is skeptical about the benefits for consumers. Leff points to, among other downsides, the fact that airlines’ computer systems can crash at inopportune moments: “When they need to process passengers by hand, they can process people with paper boarding passes but not those who need to be scanned.”

Airports already are on the biometric bandwagon: TSA security checkpoints at a growing number of airports (21 at last count) allow passengers who subscribe to Clear’s prescreening program to get through security faster. Clear charges $179 per year for membership, and once enrolled, members can scan their boarding passes and fingerprints at security — rather than show a driver’s license — then move on to physical screening.

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