JetBlue to trial self-boarding using facial recognition

Trial on flights from Boston to Aruba

JetBlue is to run a trial of self-boarding using facial recognition on flights between Boston and Aruba starting on 12 June.

The airline is working with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to test a new biometric self-boarding process as part of ongoing trials to implement a biometric exit process in the future.

JetBlue will be the first airline to integrate with CBP to use biometrics and facial recognition technology to verify passengers at the gate during boarding.

The program will start in June on flights from Boston’s Logan International Airport to Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport, meaning eight flights a week. Passengers can join in the trial without prior enrollment or registration.

How it works

  • Passengers who want to take part simply step up to the camera for a quick photo, so no need for a boarding pass or passport.
  • The camera station will connect to CBP to match the image to passport, visa or immigration photos in the CBP database and verify flight details.
  • The passenger will be notified on an integrated screen above the camera when they are cleared to proceed to board.

Removing the passport from the process speeds it up and means the camera area takes up less space than traditional egates.

SITA will supply the technology to capture the facial biometric, integration with the CBP database and JetBlue’s departure control system.

JetBlue will issue iPad minis to staff, so that they can help passengers. Probably with things like the seat number as the boarding pass will likely be stuffed in a pocket or worse.

Aim of the test

The aim of the test is to show how technology can make the boarding process simple for the passenger while enhancing U.S. national security through the implementation of biometric exit.

Last year, CBP ran a test at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on one daily Delta flight to Japan in which a facial image is captured and compared to a database without first reading the passengers passport.

Over 28,000 people took part and the percentage of passengers successfully identified was in the high nineties.


The obvious concern is who will have access to the pictures and for how long. JetBlue, SITA?

Other self-boarding trials using facial recognition

A number of airlines have already done trials of self-boarding with facial recognition, using slightly different techniques.

In February, KLM started a trial of self-boarding using facial recognition.

KLM and Schiphol trial biometric boarding

At the gate, passengers board only through facial recognition. No boarding pass or passport is needed. But, passengers have to register their details before using the biometric boarding gate. Registration involves scanning the passport, the boarding pass, and the passenger’s face.

In April, British Airways started their trial of self-boarding using facial recognition.

British Airways starts biometric boarding at Heathrow T5

In this case, the passenger biometrics are captured when using the boarding pass to go through security. At the gate, the passenger scans their boarding pass and their facial biometric is then compared with the one captured at security.

N.B. Image credits: JetBlue, KLM, British Airways

Internet links

JetBlue (B6)