American Airlines recently launched a 60-day pilot in partnership with the Transportation Security Administration at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport that will evaluate the use of a cell phone application and facial recognition technology to replace the need for physical identification such as a driver’s license and passport at checkpoints.
According to an announcement made June 22 at the start of the American Airlines Mobile ID pilot, the optional trial will instruct American passengers to download the Airside Digital Identity application and verify their identification by scanning their driver’s license or passport and entering their Enter AAdvantage number – American’s passenger loyalty program. Airside’s application uses an identification system provided by Thales that compares the passenger’s passport or driver’s license information with the passport’s embedded near-field communications chip or with the passenger’s state motor vehicle department digital records.
Once this process is complete and the passenger arrives at the airport, they will be instructed to present a QR code on their phone and consent to their mobile identification being shared with the TSA. American claims the entire airport process “typically takes less than five seconds.”
Amol Deshmukh, vice president of solutions, Thales, told Avionics International in an email statement that the driving force behind launching the Mobile ID pilot project with American Airlines was to create a more hands-free airport checkpoint experience for airline passengers . The Thales executive notes that the technology is not necessarily a new concept, but rather an opportunity for all stakeholders involved to understand how they can streamline some of the checkpoints that passengers pass through at airports.
“Thales is acting as a trusted provider of mobile digital identity technology in this case,” Deshmukh said. “We verify that the incoming data is authentic and genuine, and we are able to verify the issuance trail of each passenger’s ID card or passport.”
American Airlines’ Mobile ID project, launched in June, will initially be conducted with volunteer American passengers departing from DFW. American has also committed to deploying the technology at Miami International Airport (MIA), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) and more later this year.
Several other airlines and airports around the world are also increasingly using facial recognition, biometrics and other touchless checkpoint technologies. The trend has been particularly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted airports and airlines to look for ways to reduce passenger touchpoints along their journey.
Another aspect of using American Airlines’ Mobile ID technology, which Thales and all other partners involved are considering, is the protection of passengers’ personal data.
“The whole process is consent-driven from the passengers’ point of view. You agree to share the data through this QR code from your phone only with TSA and TSA. Once your Mobile ID has been verified by our system, that Mobile ID only exists on your phone, you cannot duplicate it, and is passed to TSA via an encrypted data feed to the TSA CAD device. TSA then does their own review at the airport and doesn’t actually store that data, once it’s done it gets deleted.”
American hasn’t provided a timeline for when it will consider expanding Mobile ID technology to other airports.