Impact of Biometric Authentication in Airport Security

Impact of Biometric
Authentication in Airport Security

essay is an analysis of an online article titled ‘Changing the Face of Travel’,
written by Colleen Manaher on the International Airport Review website dated 15th
September 2019. Colleen works at the United States Customs and Border Patrol
(CBP) as an executive director for Planning, Program Analysis, and Evaluation.
According to Colleen, air travel is becoming an ever more popular and common
means of travel in the world today. The air travel industry is booming but with
it comes certain challenges such as increased security threats and slow,
inefficient processes that cannot handle the increasing demands faced by
airports and airlines. The author’s thesis, therefore, becomes that for the air
travel industry to adequately meet future demand and protect customers from
security threats such as terrorist attacks, new biometric facial recognition
systems should be employed. Colleen (2019) argues that such systems will lead
to more secure and definitively smooth, consistent travel experiences for
customers. Additionally, airports and airlines will achieve improved
productivity gained by their less clogged, more efficiently-run systems.

Current State of Things

significance of implementing a new biometric-based security system is only
appreciated when the weaknesses of the current system are brought into full
view. Currently, customers have to spend a lot of time in long check-in queues
and slow boarding systems where four to five different entities verify and
validate every document you carry. If forecasts show that air traffic will
increase with more customers going through the pipeline, one can only expect longer
wait times and frustrated passengers. A report by the International Air
Transport Association (IATA) shows that on an annual basis, air traffic will
balloon by approximately 5% to about 8 billion passengers in 2036 up from 4
billion in 2017 (Colleen, 2019). As the author states, biometric system
implementation better solves the problem than traditional methods such as
building new and expanding old facilities.


The author’s argument so far has sufficient merit and even the casual observer will note that mathematics is strongly in favor of the adoption of the new system. Despite this, the author strengthens his position by revealing more facts to support his thesis. Colleen states that through a combination of mobile technology, cloud services, and biometrics, the new system delivers 98% accuracy during passenger inspection which leads to faster movement through the airport services pipeline.

Furthermore, the data from the article is relevant to airport planning and management professionals who recognize that an airport ecosystem is delicate and should only be upset when necessary. Implementation of the biometric system does not require expensive, time-consuming infrastructure changes as Colleen states. As a case study, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) created a facial matching service that integrates seamlessly with the airport and airline ecosystems, tailored to the needs of each system that makes up the ecosystem. The matching service, dubbed Travel Verification Service (TVS), leverages cloud-based functionalities to automatically compare facial data obtained from cameras at entry/exit points to customer data from each airline’s databases. Here, airport planning and management professionals will appreciate the power of technology which allows different systems to interface at low cost.

The author cites another article that introduces more information relevant to air travel professions, namely market sentiment on biometric use. Directors of airlines and airports cannot ignore the opinions of their customers. Professionals are reminded they are in a service industry where customer feedback is indispensable. The article referenced a Sita survey which stated that over 57% of passengers prefer the biometric system (Mason, 2018). This is understandable seeing that for a 99% success rate, the customer takes only 2 seconds in front of a camera to be identified. 63% and 43% of airports and airlines respectively will adopt the new system in the next three years. Critically, airport planners and managers are challenged to be prepared for market changes.


The article was overly positive citing only the benefits of the new system. Other resources had several concerns related to the privacy and security of user data. I do not see any bias on the author’s part as such issues were expertly handled. First, naysayers felt that the system may not always work. Second, they were cautious of business misappropriating private user data to suit their own needs. Third, they cited that such a decentralized system is insecure and susceptible to security breaches (WTC, 2019). The TVS system used by Colleen solves or accounts for each of those problems. First, it has a 98% success rate. Not only that, it uses facial data since other types of biometric data (iris scans, fingerprints) are not universally required for international travel like photographs are. Passengers are also not forced to use biometrics. Second, the TVS does not permit airlines and airports to retain the photos taken, deleting them after 12 hours. Two-factor authentication and encryption fortify the system. Third, blockchain-based systems are decentralized but still secure (Colleen, 2019).


Technology will always be a useful tool as it propels human civilization. The air travel industry is on the verge of another new technological revolution that promises more benefits than disadvantages. Biometric technology has already been adopted and proved its usefulness and airport planners and managers will do well to be at the forefront of the wave.


Colleen, Mahaner. (2019). Changing the face of travel. Retrieved from   –    travel  

Mason, Marcy. (2018). The biometric breakthrough within the
security industry.
Retrieved           from           breakthrough

World Tourism Council (WTC). (2019). Four challenges for biometrics in the travel
Retrieved from    travel-sector.

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