MIAMIThe International Air Transport Association (IATA) finds passengers prefer biometric identification if it speeds up the check-in procedure.

IATA recently released the findings of its Global Passenger Survey (GPS) for 2021. GPS results are based on 13,579 responses from 186 countries.

Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Operations, Safety and Security said, “Passengers have spoken and want technology to work harder, so they spend less time ‘being processed’ or standing in queues.”

Careen noted that travelers are “willing to use biometric data if it delivers this result. 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.”

Photo: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)


Biometric Identification

  • 73% of passengers are willing to share their biometric data to improve airport processes (up from 46% in 2019).
  • 88% will share immigration information prior to departure for expedited processing.

A little more than a third of travelers (36%) have used biometric data while traveling. 86% of those surveyed were pleased with their experience.

Data security is still a major worry, with 56% expressing anxiety about data breaches. Passengers also want to know who their data is shared with (52%), as well as how it is utilized and processed (51%).


  • 55% of passengers identified queuing at boarding as a top area for improvement.
  • 41% of passengers identified queuing at security screening as a top priority for improvement.
  • 38% of passenger identified queuing time at border control / immigration as a top area for improvement.

Processing time at airports is taking longer due to additional document checks for COVID-19. Prior to COVID-19, passengers spent an average of 1.5 hours in travel processes (check-in, security, border control, customs, and baggage claim).

According to current data, airport processing times have risen to three hours during peak hours, despite travel numbers being just about 30% of pre-COVID-19 levels. The most significant increases can be found during check-in and border control (emigration and immigration), where travel health qualifications are mostly verified as paper documentation.

IATA says this exceeds the time that passengers want to spend on processes at the airport. The survey found that:

  • 85% of passengers want to spend less than 45 mins on processes at the airport if they are traveling with only hand luggage.
  • 90% of passengers want to spend less than one hour on processes at the airport when traveling with a checked bag.
IATA Travel Pass passport. Photo: IATA


IATA has two developed initiatives that, in collaboration with industry stakeholders, can support a successful post-pandemic ramp-up of aviation and offer travelers with the speedy experience they want.

IATA Travel Pass is a tool for governments to handle the complicated web of travel health certifications that they require. The app provides a safe and secure way for travelers to check the requirements for their trip, receive test results and scan their vaccine certificates, verify that they meet destination and transit requirements, and share them with health officials and airlines easily prior to departure and using e-gates.

According to IATA, this will minimize document check queues and congestion, which will benefit travelers, airlines, airports, and governments.

One ID is a program that is assisting the industry in transitioning to a day when passengers will be able to go from curb to gate using a single biometric travel token such as a face, fingerprint, or iris scan.

Airlines are enthusiastic about the concept. Now is the time to ensure that regulations are in place to support the objective of a paperless travel experience. Not only will a single ID make operations more efficient for travelers, but it will also allow governments to better utilize important resources.

Careen said, “We cannot just revert to how things were in 2019 and expect our customers to be satisfied. Pre-pandemic we were preparing to take self-service to the next level with One ID. The crisis makes its twin promises of efficiency and cost-savings even more urgent.”

The IATA Senior VP of operations concluded, “We absolutely need technologies like IATA Travel Pass to re-enable self-service or the recovery will be overwhelmed by paper document checks. The GPS results are yet another proof point that change is needed.”

Featured image: Interior of the check-in hall at T1. Photo: Geneva Airport