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United testing facial biometrics to board flights at SFO

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – It’s all about having a touch-free experience. 

United Airlines and SITA, an information technologies company, is testing out using facial biometrics to board flights.

“In the past, this has only used e-passports, but now we’re able to bring this to self-service in the airport for domestic flights,” said Sherry Stein with SITA.

The 60 day pilot program at San Francisco International Airport is the only one in the country testing the system for domestic travel. 

It’s available on roughly eight flights a day.

“We’re averaging about 10 people per flight actually using it. We know it’s not for everybody,” said SFO employee Doug Yakel.

The new system aims to reduce how many things you have to touch during your time at the airport.

At the check-in kiosk, a camera matches the image of your face with your driver’s license.

That same image is used for bag drop off and boarding.

“That image becomes your boarding pass. Security checkpoint is the normal process, but boarding you’d go into a separate line that has the camera,” Yakel said.

It’s completely optional to use, and SITA says your image and information is only stored for the duration of your trip.

“Data is collected and used for this purpose, and then deleted. So there’s no marketing. It’s used strictly for the purposes of helping facilitate the travel process,” Stein confirmed.

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