A.I. is about to make the hassle of air travel a thing of the past

Key Points
  • A.I. appears set to massively transform passengers' air travel experience — and that could happen in just a few years, experts say
  • For one, travelers may no longer need to produce identifying documents at airports
  • IT firm SITA is partnering up with Brisbane Airport to trial a security clearance system based on face ID
A.I. will make airport security stronger yet less intrusive, CEO says
A.I. will make airport security stronger yet less intrusive, CEO says

Artificial intelligence appears set to revolutionize the air travel experience for passengers — and that could happen in just a matter of years, according to industry experts.

Airports around the world already employ advanced technology such as biometrics, which authenticates travelers' identities based on physical attributes like fingerprints. But the next decade or so could herald a new era for air travel, experts say.

For one, security clearances as we know them could become a thing of the past. Travelers will no longer need to produce any identifying documents at airports, Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, told CNBC.

"Most of the touch points that we currently loathe about airports today — the security and immigration — will disappear. And technology will enable all of those checks to be done in the background," said Griffiths.

Those sophisticated verification systems will improve security while simultaneously reducing the intrusiveness of clearance procedures, the CEO said.

Although the technology may sound futuristic, Griffiths said he was "absolutely" sure such an experience could be achieved in the next 10 to 20 years as all the devices that will enable it to function as a whole process already exists.

The key lies in integrating current features — which include facial recognition, retinal scanning, and fingerprint ID — into a workable system, Griffiths explained.

Face ID a near reality for airport security, tech expert says
Face ID a near reality for airport security, tech expert says

Geneva-based air transport communications and IT firm SITA is one firm working toward a biometrics-led vision for the aviation sector.

The company is partnering up with Brisbane Airport to trial a new biometric security system, according to its Asia Pacific president, Sumesh Patel.

Patel explained how it works: Upon arriving at the airport, travelers go to a face ID kiosk that captures their biometric information and matches that data with their passport details. The system then creates an electronic token. At subsequent clearance stages, facial recognition technology is again employed to verify identity against the token.

The system integrates with the existing airport infrastructure such as self-check-in kiosks, baggage drop points and boarding gates, according to Patel.

That technology is looking to be adopted by airports internationally very soon: A recent survey the firm conducted revealed that 29 percent of airports and 25 percent airlines plan to such a system up and running by 2020, he added.

Globally, passenger air travel has burgeoned and is expected to continue increasing until 2030, according to statistics company Statista. In 2016, passenger travel volume rose by 7.4 percent year-on-year, according to the International Air Transport Association, the trade association for the world's airlines.