Airline passengers are ready to use biometric identification if it expedites travel airport processes, reducing the time they spend standing in line. Those are the main takeaways from the International Air Transport Association’s 2021 Global Passenger Survey of over 13,000 air travelers worldwide.
According to the survey, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents said they are willing to share their biometric data to improve airport processes. That’s up from about half (46 percent) in a similar survey in 2019. An even greater majority (88 percent) said they would share immigration information prior to departure to expedite processing.
Over half of respondents (55 percent) said queuing at the boarding gate was the part of the process that could stand the most improvement, while 41 percent found security screening as a top priority for improvement, and 38 percent thought border control/immigration was most in need of improvement.
The need to keep personal data secure was a key issue for over half (56 percent) who expressed concern about data breaches. Slightly fewer (52 percent) want to know who their data is being shared with and how it is used/processed (51 percent).
With additional document checks for COVID-19, processing time at airports is taking longer. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the average time spent in travel processes (check-in, security, border control, customs, and baggage claim) was about an hour and a half, according to IATA.
However, the association warns that currently, airport processing times have ballooned to 3 hours during peak time – and that’s with travel volumes at only about 30 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels. The increase comes from the need to check travel health credentials, mainly as paper documents.
In contrast, the survey found the great majority of airline passengers (85 to 90 percent) are expecting far shorter processing times at the airport – less than 45 minutes if they are traveling with only carryon bags, and less than one hour if they are traveling with a checked bag.
“Passengers have spoken and want technology to work harder, so they spend less time ‘being processed’ or standing in queues, and they are willing to use biometric data if it delivers this result,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for operations, safety and security.
With testing requirements and vaccination verification becoming part of everyday travel life, the move toward digital solutions is gaining momentum. A number of so-called ‘digital health passports’ are currently available or in test, including the IATA Travel Pass, Verifly, Common Pass and Clear.
IATA has called for governments worldwide to adopt the EU’s Digital COVID Certificate, or DCC, as the global standard for vaccination certificates, saying the DCC should “serve as a blueprint” for other nations.
“We cannot just revert to how things were in 2019 and expect our customers to be satisfied,” Careen said. “Before traffic ramps up, we have a window of opportunity to ensure a smooth return to travel post pandemic and deliver long-term efficiency improvements for passengers, airlines, airports and governments.”