Dan Tanciar, a deputy executive director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, said that biometrics for international travelers, which allow passengers to board a flight or clear passport control via a photo, is right around the corner.
“Our goal is to have this in place over the next four years,” said Tanciar. “The plan is, to begin with international flights then expand to domestic. On inbound international travel, you’ll be able to leave the passport in your pocket,” he added.
Using biometric technology for domestic flights will take longer to implement, he says because the TSA doesn’t have the same kind of national database of photos as the U.S. government does with passports. Each state would have to come together to merge their driver’s license IDs.
Three airlines are currently testing limited biometric entry: JetBlue, British Airways, and Delta at airports in Boston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, but passports are still involved.
At Los Angeles International Airport, British Airways is offering biometric entry for some international flights, instead of a boarding pass. Lufthansa, Qantas, and Korean Airlines plan to install similar offerings at LAX this month, according to a recent report by KABC-TV.
The San Jose airport hopes to go 100% biometric for international travels this year. "We intend to be the first airport in the United States" to feature the service for all international flights, says Rebecca Baer, the deputy director of Innovation and business development at SJC.
For domestic flights, she sees a way around waiting for the TSA to join Customs in adding the services by using an opt-in system, similar to how fliers sign up (and pay) with the TSA for preauthorized clearances at airports.
“I could voluntarily give the airline or government my pictures and verify my ID the same way we do with a passport like we do with a precheck,” she says.
The advantage Customs has over the TSA in getting the program moving is that international travel is a smaller volume, she says, and there are different requirements for international travelers.