From left: Drew Magill, managing director‹, Marketing, Europe, Boeing Commercial Airplanes; Gloria Guevara Manzo, president and CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council; Pekka Vauramo, president and CEO, Finnair; and Giorgio Abrate, vice-president, Engineering, Avio Aero. Image: Marisa Garcia

APEX Insight: During last week’s A4E Aviation Summit, airline CEOs and other leaders in the travel industry discussed a looming capacity crunch facing airlines in Europe and around the globe as passenger numbers increase. Broader adoption of biometrics can reduce passenger processing times and make growth manageable.

Airlines are concerned that a lack of progress on security and passenger clearance processes may lead to chronic airport crowding and flight delays. The resulting inefficiencies could limit the capacity available in certain markets.

During a panel discussion at A4E Aviation Summit last week on how technology might address the future needs of Europe’s airlines, Gloria Guevara Manzo, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, argued that broader adoption of biometric technologies will be essential to managing passenger flow.

“Biometric ID is the solution, we believe, to increase security while making more efficient the experience of the traveller,” Guevara Manzo said. “By working together, we can come up with a standard so that we can then engage with governments. Because the airlines can be very efficient, and the airports can be very efficient, but let’s be honest, that’s not enough. We need immigration, we need customs, we need everyone in the entire travel chain to use biometrics and be more efficient.”

Pekka Vauramo, president and CEO of Finnair, discussed some of the challenges facing airlines as they run biometric trials. Finnair worked with Helsinki Airport operator, Finavia, to conduct a trial of facial recognition boarding for frequent flyers last year.

“The motivation is to make air travel easier for everyone.” – Pekka Vauramo, Finnair CEO

“The motivation is to make air travel easier for everyone,” Vauramo said. “I think as an industry, we haven’t done a good job in taking the technology introduced and recognizing that certain technologies are good enough to be applied. The other challenge is sharing the information.”

Vauramo pointed out that laws regarding the gathering and protection of passenger data, such as the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), may affect how quickly biometric processes can be introduced. “Consumers are becoming extremely…concerned over where this biometric information is going to be used,” he said. “There are some challenges in governance, but it’s promising technology and it speeds up the process.”

Guevara Manzo suggested that governments can be encouraged to be more receptive of biometric clearance if travel industry groups, including airlines and airports, present its advantages. “The best example is when we migrated from paper ticketing to e-ticketing,” she said. “That was an initiative driven by the airlines that became a standard worldwide. It was very efficient. It was difficult in the beginning and took some time, but then it was very important to allow us to grow.”

Marisa Garcia was once locked in a hangar in Oberpfaffenhofen while fine-tuning Gandalf’s new seats. Seriously. The firemen got her out. Writing is less confining, but she has lovely memories of those hands-on days.