IATA publishes standards to support rollout of contactless biometric ID for document-free international air travel

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published a set of industry standards for a mechanism that will enable international air passengers to pass through all airport processes using only contactless biometric recognition technology by generating verified digital travel credentials and sending them to destination authorities and airlines in advance of travel.

IATA’s Recommended Practice on Digitalization of Admissibility standards support the association’s One ID contactless biometric-enabled travel initiative and will enable travellers to prove digitally that they have all the required authorisations to travel to an international destination and avoid physical checks at the airport of paper documentation such as passports, visas or health credentials.

The mechanism will allow travellers to create a verified digital identity in an airline’s app on their smartphone and use it to send proof of all required documentation to destination authorities, “receive a digital ‘approval of admissibility’ in their digital identity/passport app” and “share the verified credential (not all their data) with their airline”, IATA explains.

Passengers will then “receive confirmation from their airline that all is in order and go to the airport”.

“The new standards have been developed to protect passengers’ data and ensure that travel remains accessible to all,” IATA says.

“Passengers remain in control of their data and only credentials (verified approvals, not the data behind them) are shared peer-to-peer (with no intermediating party).

“This is interoperable with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s standards, including those for the Digital Travel Credential.

“Manual processing options will be retained so that travellers will have the ability to opt out of digital admissibility processing.”

“Passengers want technology to make travel simpler. By enabling passengers to prove their admissibility to their airline before they get to the airport, we are taking a major step forward,” IATA’s Nick Careen says.

“And there is a good incentive for airlines and governments as well, with improved data quality, streamlined resourcing requirements and identification of admissibility issues before passengers get to the airport.”

An IATA survey published in November found that three in four airline passengers surveyed want biometric ID to replace passports and boarding passes and the same month British Airways began trialling a biometric check-in and boarding system for international flights from London Heathrow.

IATA publishes standards to support rollout of contactless biometric ID for document-free international air travel was written by Tom Phillips and published by NFCW.