As biometric technology expands, travelers may expect an additional camera awaiting them at select American airports.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – Exit Checks

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) is trialing new facial recognition technology at airport boarding gates to confirm the departure of travelers from the U.S. The new technology uses facial imaging to cross-check passengers’ identities against information stored in CBP’s database and in the traveler’s passport. The information is verified against databases for “derogatory information, including criminal, immigration violator, and known or suspected terrorist watch lists” prior to exiting the country. [1]

CBP first initiated biometric screening with fingerprints in 2004 for certain non-U.S. citizens as part of the Biometric Entry-Exit Program. The program was expanded and now includes facial recognition.  The recent pilots at departure gates are part of CBP’s efforts to implement the last phase of the Biometric Entry-Exit Program, focused on exit by 2018. [2] These programs work towards the goal of “protecting a traveler’s identity and enhancing national security” [3] and align with a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Report “Fiscal Year 2016 Entry/Exit Overstay” estimating that the absence of a comprehensive biometric exit system enabled an estimated 629,000 visitors to overstay their visas in 2016. [4]

Current CBP pilots in airports include:

  • New York JFK: 1-1 Facial Comparison Project launched to verify if the traveler is the rightful document holder. The first deployment of the pilot applied to U.S. citizens with ePassports and to select first-time Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers. [5]
  • Washington Dulles: CBP deployed NEC cloud-based NeoFace matching on flights to Dubai at a gate under the operation of Emirates Airlines. [6]
  • Houston: CBP deployed biometric exit technology for facial recognition for one daily flight to Tokyo from George Bush Intercontinental Airport. [7]
  • Atlanta: CBP is testing an enhanced mobile device to collect biometric exit data at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Data is taken from select foreign nationals departing the U.S.[8]
  • Chicago: CBP deployed facial recognition biometric exit technology to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. [9]
  • Boston: In partnership with JetBlue and aviation company SITA, CBP is implementing facial recognition technology at Boston Logan International Airport for flights to Aruba Queen Beatrix International Airport. [10]


U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – Biometric Authentication Technology (BAT)

Through its Innovation Task Force (ITF), TSA is also looking at opportunities to enhance both security and checkpoint efficiency using contact or contactless fingerprint scanning to authenticate a passenger’s travel document and identification based on a biometric.  This would eliminate the need to staff each Travel Document Check (TDC) podium with an officer, thereby potentially saving TSA a significant amount of money each year.  TSA is slated to launch BAT pilots at Denver International Airport and Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport by the close of the fiscal year. [11]


Airlines – Automated Bag Drop

Biometric technology is also expanding to bag drop. Delta is currently testing a facial recognition technology at self-service baggage drop-off pods. The first biometric baggage system of its kind, the pilot program was installed at four pods in Minneapolis-St Paul in June 2017.[12]


As these biometric programs are still nascent, it would be of interest for both passengers and professionals in the aviation sector alike to monitor and chart the course of their development.



[1] “Comprehensive Biometric Entry/Exit Plan- Fiscal Year 2016 Report to Congress.” US Department of Homeland Security, Web. 19 July 2017.

[2] ibid

[3] “Biometric Travel Security Initiatives.” Biometric Travel Security Initiatives. US Customs and Border Protection, 30 June 2017. Web. 18 July 2017.

[4] “Fiscal Year 2016 Entry/Exit Overstay Report.”1-50. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Web.

[5] “CBP to Use Facial Comparison Technology at John F. Kennedy International Airport.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection. U.S.Department of Homeland Security, 29 Jan. 2016. Web. 20 July 2017.

[6] “NEC Tests Facial Recognition with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Select Dulles International Airport (IAD) Flights.” NEC. NEC Corporation of America (NEC), 27 June 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.

[7]” CBP Deploys Biometric Exit Technology to George Bush Intercontinental Airport.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 27 June 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.

[8] “CBP Begins Testing an Enhanced Mobile Device to Collect Biometric Exit Data.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 14 July 2015. Web. 20 July 2017.

[9] “CBP Deploys Biometric Exit Technology to Chicago O’Hare International Airport.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 11 July 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.

[10]  Curley, Robert. “Jet Blue Trials Biometric Boarding at Boston Airport.” Business Traveller – The Leading Magazine for Frequent Flyers. Business Traveller, 02 June 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.

[11] Karoly, Steve. “Checkpoint of the Future: Evaluating TSA’s Innovation Task Force Initiative.”TSA. U.S. Transportation Security Administration, 27 Apr. 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.

[12] “Delta Opens First Biometric-Based Self-Service Bag Drop in the U.S.” Delta Professional. Delta Airlines, 19 June 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.


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