Alaska Airlines has quietly started a test program at California’s Mineta San Jose Airport in cooperation with CLEAR — the security line expeditors — that could lead to the demise of the relatively new digital boarding pass.
The airline has signed up some 200 regular customers at San Jose for an experiment that lets them use biometrics— iris scans and/or fingerprint scans — instead of photo IDs and boarding passes to verify their identity as they go through the airport experience, from checking bags to security to boarding the aircraft.
The airline is working with CLEAR because that company has become quite sophisticated in using biometric identifiers in its airport program, which lets members bypass the security waiting lines and go straight to the checkpoint. In fact, CLEAR’s biometric scanners are so reliable that the company recently eliminated the use of CLEAR ID cards that members formerly had to use. CLEAR currently operates at a dozen major airports, and membership costs $179 a year.
Now, subscribers scan their fingers or irises rather than produce credentials. They’re still required to show boarding passes, but people in the pilot program don’t need them. And when program participants board an Alaska Airlines plane out of San Jose, they swipe their fingers on a tablet rather than show boarding passes. -San Jose Mercury News
Participants in the Alaska Airlines pilot project were personally invited by airline staff at the airport, or by email.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the test program has had occasional glitches with the scanners, and some security experts claim it is still possible to fool the devices by putting a copy of someone else’s fingerprint over your fingertip, but these are seen as solvable problems.
It’s only been a couple of years since airlines introduced the digital boarding passes that are now widely used, but in these days of high-speed technological innovation, their days could already be numbered.
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