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French airport tests facial recognition instead of passport control

The system allows for faster embarkation on certain European flights

30,000 people have used the facial recognition system in three years at Lyon airport Pic: BalkansCat / Shutterstock

Facial recognition technology is streamlining the embarkation process at Lyon Saint-Exupéry airport by allowing passengers to forgo standard passport controls.

The experimental system, called the ‘Biometric Experience’, is being tested by several airlines on European flights.

In the past three years, 30,000 passengers on Transavia, Air Corsica and TAP Air Portugal have used it on up to four flights a day, which airport authorities consider to be a resounding success.

“It just works,” said Ludovic Gas, the operations director at Lyon airport.

“The passengers are still the same, but can now keep their hands in their pockets,” he told FranceInfo.

“There’s no need to get out any ID papers. The facial recognition system just opens a gate and passengers can get to the plane.”

Lyon airport told The Connexion that the system works for UK passports but does not accept US passports.

Passengers on eligible flights who want to use their smartphone must first download the Lyon Airport app.

This system is currently available on flights to:

  • Faro 

  • Funchal

  • Porto

  • Lisbon

  • Ajaccio

  • Bastia 

Passengers who have pre-registered their documents on the app have dedicated queues at the security and check-in gates, which scan their faces and open automatically.

The way the airports use the biometric data is monitored by the French data protection agency CNIL.

“We are starting to hear from other airlines who are interested in using the technology,” said Mr Gas.

“It helps streamline passengers’ route through the airport and helps us to improve the airport’s operational efficiency. The airlines also appreciate that it reduces their embarkation time.”

Passengers in Lyon seem to be happy with the new system, which so far has a customer satisfaction rating of 4.9/5

Facial recognition is used even more extensively at Frankfurt airport, which has installed the technology in all of its terminals. Passengers going through the airport can now use their face at every stage from check-in, to security and boarding.

While the system has been approved for internal flights within the EU, there is some doubt that it can be rolled out to international flights due to the differing rules on data protection and passport checks.

Read more:

Can I travel freely in the EU as the spouse of an EU citizen? 

French customs officer stamps Briton’s passport, then saves his life

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