JetBlue recently announced it will collaborate with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and SITA to test a new paperless and deviceless self-boarding process as part of ongoing trials to implement a biometric exit process in the future. JetBlue will be the first airline to integrate with CBP to use biometrics and facial recognition technology to verify customers at the gate during boarding.
The program will start in June on flights from Boston’s Logan International Airport to Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport. Customers can participate without any prior enrollment or registration.
Customers who opt in during the boarding process can put away their boarding passes and devices and simply step up to the camera for a quick photo. The custom-designed camera station will connect to CBP to instantly match the image to passport, visa or immigration photos in the CBP database and verify flight details. The customer will be notified on an integrated screen above the camera when they are cleared to proceed to the jet bridge. The setup will move JetBlue crewmembers from behind the counter to interact with customers and assist throughout the process. JetBlue will issue iPad minis to crewmembers, giving them mobility to monitor and manage the boarding process while interacting with customers.
“We hope to learn how we can further reduce friction points in the airport experience, with the boarding process being one of the hardest to solve,” said Joanna Geraghty, executive vice president customer experience, JetBlue. “Self-boarding eliminates boarding pass scanning and manual passport checks. Just look into the camera and you’re on your way.”
SITA, the global provider of IT, communications and border security solutions to airlines, airports and governments is providing the technology and connectivity to perform facial capture and integration with the CBP database as well as integration with JetBlue’s departure control system. If successful, the program will show how technology can make the boarding process simple and seamless for the traveler while enhancing U.S. national security through the implementation of biometric exit.
“CBP looks forward to engaging closely with air travel partners, like JetBlue, to better understand how CBP’s biometric exit program will support their efforts to streamline the travel process by using advanced biometric technology,” said CBP’s Office of Field Operations, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, John Wagner. “By transforming current business operations, airlines and airports will have the opportunity to use verified biometrics to ensure a seamless and consistent process for travelers.”
Jim Peters, chief technology officer, SITA, said: “This biometric self-boarding program for JetBlue and the CBP is designed to be easy to use. What we want to deliver is a secure and seamless passenger experience. We use sophisticated technologies to enable biometric checks and for CBP authorization to be sent quickly to the airline’s systems. This is the first integration of biometric authorization by the CBP with an airline and may prove to be a solution that will be quick and easy to roll out across US airports.”
Self-boarding builds on JetBlue’s efforts to innovate the airport travel experience. JetBlue recently debuted its self-service “line-less” lobbies with new interactive kiosks featuring the latest personal, helpful and simple technology, including self-bag tagging and self-bag drop capabilities that increase efficiency and reduce frustrating airport lines. JetBlue’s new lobby launched at New York-JFK last year. Based on positive customer response, JetBlue has brought the new lobby design to Boston, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, San Juan, Newark and Atlanta with more coming in 2017.