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Heathrow plans facial recognition points at check-in, bag drop and boarding

Archive image by Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Heathrow Airport is rolling out biometric technology that will recognise your face throughout departures, cutting out the need to use boarding cards.

The move is optional to passengers and part of a £50 million project that will make it the world's largest biometric deployment when it launches in summer 2019, with facial recognition points at check-in, bag drop and boarding.

It will potentially reduce the average passenger's journey time by up to a third.

At present, travellers need to stop to show agents different forms of ID such as boarding cards, booking reference numbers as well as their passports.

"As our passenger numbers continue to grow, we must look for innovative ways to make it easier and quicker for them to travel through Heathrow with choice, whilst keeping our airport secure," said Heathrow customer relations and service director Jonathan Coen.

"Biometrics are key to helping us do that and we are really excited about the biggest roll-out of this equipment at any UK airport.”

"With this technology we'll be able to offer passengers choice on how they travel through our airport, with colleagues on hand to guide passengers that require it.”

"Biometric technology has been well received by our passengers so far and we're looking forward to working with our colleagues and the airline community as part of our ongoing transformation at Heathrow, with a focus on enhancing passenger experience."

Some forms of biometrics are already in use at the airport, such as facial recognition e-gates at the border, but the latest step will be the first time that Heathrow will use the technology at every stage of the departing passenger's journey.

Although the system would mean significantly less contact with staff departing from Heathrow, colleagues will still be on hand to assist passengers who need it and will cut down on repetitive tasks that can cause bottlenecks.

Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport recently unveiled a similar offering to help speed up the departure process, with self-service kiosks for flight and baggage check-in, security clearance and boarding powered by facial recognition.

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