Time to Face the Future: Biometric Facial Scanners Arrive at Tampa International Airport

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By Carrie Pinkard

There might be a day in the future when people no longer need to mix up boarding passes and passports to get on a plane.

All they would need is their face.

Tampa International Airport may be heading in that direction with its biometric facial scanner pilot program.

John Tiliacos, executive vice president of operations and customer service at TIA, said the month-long pilot program was part of a larger plan to streamline the onboarding process.

“The longer term plan for this is that the biometric system, once linked to the airline’s computer reservation system, would eventually become a one-step process. Your photo is therefore taken, it is associated with a photo library, then customs have a trace of your departure from the country. “

The photo library is taken from the US Customs Traveler Verification Service database, and customs officials say photos are deleted within 12 hours of verification.

The facial biometrics system is divided into “exit biometrics” and “entry biometrics”.

As the names suggest, exit biometrics are for people leaving the country, while entry biometrics are for people entering.

Tampa International Airport has agreed to pay $ 1 million for the installation of biometric exit facial scanners, with hopes that U.S. Customs will install the companion entry system next year.

Biometric scanners are expected to be at 10 international outbound gates by fall 2020.

Tiliacos said the goal is to speed up the processing time people have to spend when they arrive at the airport.

“On the arrivals side, our mission is to make sure that passengers arriving overseas can clear customs much faster and more efficiently than they do today,” Tiliacos said.

The pilot program has been underway since earlier this month and Tiliacos said there haven’t been any issues with it yet.

He said the error rate for scanners is two-tenths of a percent.

If a passenger feels uncomfortable using biometric facial scanners, they don’t have to.

“If anyone wants to pull out, they can definitely do it,” Tiliacos said. “Their identification and boarding eligibility will be verified by another means. “

Credit Tampa International Airport

A passenger boarding a Copa Airlines flight at Tampa International Airport using the new biometric facial scanner. The airport plans to spend $ 1 million to place scanners at 10 of its international gates by fall 2020.


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