MIAMI – German flag-carrier Lufthansa (LH) is set to debut a technology-driven boarding process that promises to reduce points of contact. ‘Star Alliance Biometrics’ is a facial recognition-based boarding process that will be available exclusively to passengers flying on alliance-member carriers. Swiss Air Lines (LX), a member of the Lufthansa Group, will also be utilizing this technology on a limited basis.

“We are exceedingly proud to have founding member Lufthansa as the first airline to implement the Star Alliance Biometrics solution in both of its Frankfurt and Munich Airport hubs”, said CEO of Star Alliance Jeff Goh in a statement Tuesday. “Whilst it offers a seamless customer travel experience, it is also a critical development that addresses the expectation of customers for a more touchless and hygienically safer experience.”

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines have been forced to seek innovate ways to safely maintain the passenger experience. A top priority has been reducing human points-of-contact for travelers, thus reducing the possibility of transmitting the virus.

Facial recognition technology in airports is hardly a new concept, especially for LH. Last year, the German carrier debuted facial recognition technology at Miami International Airport (MIA) in partnership with the US Customs and Border Protection. At the time, this technology was limited to those flying MIA to Munich (MUC), and dramatically lowered the check-in wait by up to 80%.

Passenger using Star Alliance Biometics. PHOTO: Star Alliance

How Does it Work?

Passengers belonging to the LH and LX rewards program, ‘Miles and More’, must opt-in through their account. After following a link from the Lufthansa mobile application, users are then prompted to provide a selfie image and verify key details such as passport information.

At the airport, passengers can utilize Star Alliance Biometrics whilst still wearing a mask. The service will initially be available at MUC and Frankfurt (FRA), with plans to quickly expand it to more locations.

 “I am very pleased that with Star Alliance Biometrics we will be able to offer interested frequent flyers biometric security checkpoint access and boarding via facial recognition at our Frankfurt and Munich hubs as from November,” said LH Board Member Christina Foerster.” This is an important milestone for us.”

LH Airbus A380-800. PHOTO: Luca Flores/Airways

Keeping Data Security in Mind

Despite the ongoing pandemic, customers still expect certain levels of data security. Star Alliance Biometrics is built by industry leader NEC on their new identity management software, I:Delight Biometrics. In accordance with EU data laws, passengers must consent to the use of their data before using Star Alliance Biometrics.

Star Alliance promises the highest levels of data security for users of its platform. The sensitive information required for enrollment, such as the photo and passport information, is encrypted and safely stored. The press release states that storage of personal information will be kept to a minimum–largely reducing the risk of a data breach.

Instilling confidence in travelers is a top priority, as finding the balance between physical and virtual safety remains a constant struggle. However, the use of revolutionary technologies like facial recognition can prove vital in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

“Star Alliance Biometrics now creates a more efficient and – especially important in today’s times – touchless passenger journey, which offers greater security as well as more comfort and less waiting time”, said Fraport AG Board Member Dr. Pierre Dominique Prümm. “We are proud to be one of the first airports worldwide to offer this pioneering technology.”

Featured Image: A LH Airbus A340-300 wearing the Star Alliance Livery. Photo: Shon Fridman/Airways