Gatwick Airport is launching the UK’s first trial of end-to-end biometrics where personal data collected at the airport’s self-service bag drops will be recognised by new automated self-boarding gates in the departures lounge. This, it is hoped, will both simplify and speed up passenger processes, while also reducing the risk of any human error.
- London’s Gatwick Airport and easyJet will trial biometric technology to simplify and speed up airport processes with self-boarding gates helping to reduce queues;
- The new self-boarding technology will identify each passenger and verify that their passport, face and boarding card all match – a process which will take less than 20 seconds;
- The trial, the first and most extensive of its kind in the UK, will run for at least three months and have a sample size of around 10,000 passengers;
- The project will investigate at how long each interaction takes, what this means for queue times, how it simplifies the passenger journey, how passengers interact with the technology, and how intuitive the process is.
The trial is being run at the London airport in partnership with easyJet – Gatwick’s biggest airline – and the new self-boarding technology will identify each passenger and verify that their passport, face and boarding card all match – a process which takes less than 20 seconds.
It will be the first and most extensive of its kind in the UK and will run for at least three months so that around 10,000 passengers take part across easyJet’s 43 Gatwick routes. This range should allow the airport to gather enough meaningful information to be able to spot trends and adapt the technology to ensure the optimum experience for passengers.
The trial partners are also inviting passengers without luggage (i.e those that do not need to use self-service bag drop) to take part in the trial by collecting the required data at the entrance to the boarding gate room. The easyJet boarding process at Gatwick is traditionally handled by airline staff, but can now be automated with this unique technology, reducing queue times and freeing up airline staff to better assist passengers.
Gatwick Airport officials say the trial will be looking at how long each interaction takes, what this means for queue times, how it simplifies the passenger journey, how passengers interact with the technology, and how intuitive the process is. Once all the data is gathered, the technology will then be adapted and adjusted before taking the idea forward for airport-wide implementation.
“Self-boarding technology is the obvious next piece in the jigsaw following extensive investment in our automated check-in and security processing areas,” says Gatwick Airport’s chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe.
Gatwick Airport says it has an ambition to “reduce queue time and put passengers in charge of their time at the airport” and believe investment in technologies which automate the passenger processing part of travelling through an airport “will help the airport to manage the ever increasing numbers who choose to fly from Gatwick”.
Ultimately, for airlines, the faster, more efficient process also has the potential to improve aircraft departure times. easyJet’s director of ground operations, Karen Cox, says, if rolled out, the technology could “revolutionise” the boarding experience for its customers. “The technology streamlines the processes our customers go through, saving them time and enhancing their travel experiences,” she explains.
The boarding process represents the final part of the automated passenger journey to be developed, and it follows Gatwick’s initial implementation of self-service bag drop technology three years ago. Five airlines are currently using this self-service bag drop technology at Gatwick, and a further five airlines due to adopt the technology soon, according to the airport.