WestJet Begins Trials For Biometric Boarding In Calgary

Calgary-based WestJet has begun trials with biometric testing at Calgary International Airport (YYC). In a statement about the biometric testing trial released on November 25, 2021, WestJet said that together with world-leading communications technology company TELUS they had trialed Trusted Boarding.

WestJet is testing biometric boarding in Calgary. Photo: Getty Images

This latest technology verifies a person’s identity before they board their flight. According to WestJet, the trial was the first of its kind ever done in Canada. Airlines believe that touchless biometric screening will allow passengers to avoid lines and prove a time-efficient way of checking in passengers.

Biometric’s allow for contactless document validation

When speaking about the trials in the company statement WestJet Executive Vice-President and Chief Information Officer Stuart McDonald said:

“The travel experience is evolving to include many touchless processes, and WestJet is innovating to ensure our guests’ travel journey improves to become more seamless and efficient while prioritizing safety above all. The Trusted Boarding trial is a union between technology and WestJet that would in the future help our agents and our guests with contactless document validation.”

WestJet said the Trusted Board trial confirmed to the airline that responsible use of biometric boarding technology validated a person’s identity and stopped unauthorized individuals from boarding the plane. WestJet says that the trial marked the latest step in the airline’s quest to get approval from the Canadian Government to use the technology at Westjet’s Canadian airports.

When speaking about the trial from its perspective, TELUS Chief Technology Officer Ibrahim Gedeon said:

“As air travel gradually reopens, the passenger experience continues to evolve. Our groundbreaking, made-in-Canada solution allows travelers to enjoy a secure, touchless identity verification experience while ensuring they are able to maintain control of their personal data. This level of control establishes and increases consumer trust by addressing privacy, security, and ethical data risks from the start while providing transparency to customers.”

Using Canadian innovation, Trusted Boarding is helping to support a more digitized Canada. Trusted Boarding is a smartphone application for IOS and Android. It provides contactless document validation, where a facial verification scan is matched with a traveler’s documentation uploaded to the app before boarding.

More importantly, the app lets users retain control of their personal information at all times. This means that as a passenger, you can share your personal credentials when needed and then revoke access when the data is no longer required.

Biometric screening is already being used at other airports

Biometric screening is nothing new and is being used at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT). Spanish national flag carrier Iberia has been using biometric screening in its Terminal 4 hub since February. Over the border in the United States, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and American Airlines are all trialing biometric facial recognition at several of their hubs.

All airlines like the idea of biometric boarding. Photo: WestJet

In this COVID-19 world where we all wear masks and talk to people behind plastic screens, the idea of not coming into contact with people at the airport makes sense. You have to realize that the real reason airlines want biometric testing is because it saves them money. The saving comes in two ways. Firstly, no employees will have to inspect passports and tickets physically; secondly, it helps them get planes boarded faster.

All airlines like the idea of biometric screening

If you look at Ryanair, it’s all about quick turnaround times. The sooner you can get the arriving passengers off and the new passengers on, the better as the plane isn’t making money sitting on the ground.

It has already been proven that biometric testing speeds up boarding times quite dramatically. As for WestJet, it’s not a question of whether or not they will implement biometric boarding but when.

What do you think about biometric boarding? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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