British Airways is introducing self-service biometric boarding gates at Heathrow T5.
The first three boarding gates for UK domestic flights departing from Heathrow Terminal 5 are now open.
Three more of the self-boarding gates will open at each domestic departure stand each week until mid-June, with a view to roll-out the scheme on international flights in the future.
To use the egates, passengers scan their own boarding pass at the egate, stand on the area marked on the floor, look at the camera and then, if all is ok, enter the boarding bridge.
The facial biometric is first captured when the passenger scans their boarding pass to get airside. At the boarding gate that facial biometric is then compared with the one pictured at the boarding gate.
BA doesn’t mention if the facial biometric in the passport is also checked at any point. It is also not clear how or if the egates check hand baggage size and number.
Troy Warfield, British Airways’ director of customer experience, says that customers want the ability to simplify and speed up their journeys through the airport. He doesn’t explain or give figures to show why the biometric boarding and self bagdrop achieve those aims.
Indeed the new procedures actually increase the time passengers spend on departure procedures. The total time now spent by BA passengers at T5 will now rise considerably.
A shame as until now the British Airways check-in and staffed bag drop at Heathrow T5 has been just about the simplest, fastest and most pleasant anywhere.
The simple fact is that most airline and airport self-service is about cutting costs by reducing the number of staff. Forget the passenger experience spin.
And British Airways these days is gaining a reputation as cost cutter in chief.
Mr Warfield also says the self-boarding gates, along with self-serve bag drop points, are just two of the ways in which BA are investing in areas customers value most.
Many British Airways passengers will wonder which customers Mr Warfield actually speaks with. The airline has received huge criticism recently about its relentless cuts and extra fees. The once great, premium airline now charges for seats, bags, drinks, snacks and has increased card charges. These are more likely the areas customers value most.
KLM biometric boarding trial at Amsterdam
And here is the publicity picture they released.
N.B. Image credits: British Airways and KLM