Iberia part of collaboration behind new facial recognition pilot project in Madrid as it takes further steps along its digital transformation journey

Iberia, along with the Spanish airports and air traffic control authority Aena, IECISA, Gunnebo, and Thales last week unveiled a facial recognition pilot project at the Spanish flag carrier’s hub in Terminal 4 at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport.

The project aims to improve the customer experience at the airport by enabling customers to identify themselves at both general and fast-track security control and at boarding gates with just their biometric profile, eliminating the need to show travel documents.

The new system will be tested during a period lasting between six and twelve months with Iberia passengers bound domestically for Asturias or internationally to Brussels, both destinations served with up to five daily Iberia flights.

A number of airlines and airports are currently trialling biometric solutions around the globe, but this is thought to be the first to enable passengers to identify themselves via a mobile device app instead of appearing at a physical location.

The pioneering project allows users to register via an app on their mobile devices. This can be done via the Iberia app, Aena app and also at airport kiosks placed at check-in counter 848 and in front of the security control area of T4. The facial recognition system is also installed at T4 boarding gates J40 and J58 from which flights to these two destinations will depart.

To make use of the new facial recognition system, users must be of legal age, must hold a v. 3.0 Spanish National Identity Document (DNI), as issued since 2015 (at the T4 kiosks passengers can use any valid Spanish DNI or European passport), and have a cell phone with an Android OS as an NFC reader. This system will soon be extended and available for users of iOS too.

They then are required to create a biometric identity, taking a photograph of their photo ID, and then to take a brief “video selfie”, which allows system software to verify there is a good match between the images. Those using the kiosks at T4 in Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport will also need to scan the QR code of the boarding pass and associate it with their profile.

The registration process needs only to be completed only once during the testing period and the biometric profile is transmitted and stored within Aena’s database. With their boarding pass linked to this biometric profile, when passengers to Asturias and Brussels check-in online, the system will offer them the possibility of using facial recognition to go through security control and the boarding gate.

“Facial recognition and the recording of biometric profiles via our application are a part of our project of connected operations and will enable our customers to have a better experience in T4, which is the main reason behind Iberia’s commitment to innovation,” says Gabriel Perdiguero, chief transformation officer at Iberia.

The facial recognition pilot project is one aspect of the airline’s digital transformation programme which aims to develop a 100% digital culture and experience through a new push towards innovation and the search for new business opportunities. Other recent advances include the addition of a virtual assistant on WhatsApp for requests in Spanish, two Iberia skills in Alexa, Amazon’s voice device, the Bag on Board service, and the chatbot on the iberia.com app for mobile devices and Facebook Messenger.