Embrace Change and Embrace Biometrics Beyond US Exit

As international travel resumes, US airports are under increasing pressure to adopt a US biometric exit solution to help US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) meet its 97% screening target[1] outbound passengers at all commercial airports over the next few years. As a result, many airports are looking to implement solutions in the coming months ahead of the holiday season.

Mandate challenges

US Entry/Exit Mandate Established Following 9/11 Commission Recommendations[2]. The entry and introduction of facilities dedicated to the Federal Inspection Services (FIS) was easily achieved. However, implementing a solution for the exit from the United States proved more difficult. In the United States, international air traffic represents less than 20% of all flights operated and closer to 5% in the early stages of the pandemic recovery. Most US airports were built over 40 years ago, long before security screening was even considered. As a result, US airports do not tend to have an exit immigration process like in many other countries. Airport terminals often operate with a mix of domestic and international flights. Over the years, testing exit solutions in the United States would have required CBP officers to be stationed at gates, manually managing the process, causing bottlenecks and leading to potential flight delays and delays. other negative operational impacts.

Integrate best-in-class biometrics

The success of CBP’s Traveler Verification Service (TVS) was a game-changer. In 2017, SITA, JetBlue, and CBP worked together to create the world’s first solution to integrate TVS into airline boarding processes and deliver a new secure, paperless, and device-less self-boarding process. In 2018, SITA won the highly respected Aviation Technology Achievement at Air Transport World’s Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards 2018 in recognition of this great innovation and use of technology, which has now become the de facto standard for the industry.

The reliability and accuracy of facial recognition technology has improved dramatically in recent years, and SITA’s partner, NEC, is consistently among the top performers in the world according to NIST rankings. NEC is also the underlying technology that CBP uses for its TVS, so regardless of which camera system supplier the airport chooses, every solution relies on NEC’s matching algorithms. However, experience shows that not all camera systems are created equal. SITA Smart Path consistently achieves the highest match rates in the industry compared to other biometric exit solutions in the United States, with a match rate of 99.5%.

For airports to fully embrace this change and benefit from biometrics, it is essential to understand the importance of standards, interoperability and integration with existing infrastructure and processes. A successful implementation is not limited to the installation of equipment. The complexity of airline onboarding and the onboarding process are crucial elements for a successful implementation, and having the right partner can help overcome challenges and ensure smooth delivery.

Mounting pressure, long-term solutions

Most U.S. airports are now operating with passenger volumes above pre-pandemic levels while struggling to restore staffing levels to support demand. Many airports are undergoing extensive renovation and reconstruction projects to replace aging terminals. Biometric boarding through TVS provides a springboard to support an airport’s broader transformation strategy to improve security and streamline the customer experience.

As airports consider their strategy to support CBP’s biometric exit program, they must also consider how the selected solution best aligns with customer experience goals and the airport’s long-term operating strategy. With existing staffing shortages and the continued demand for automated, contactless processing solutions, solutions must evolve to meet these long-term operational needs. The SITA and NEC partnership provides US airports with a platform that scales to support current US exit requirements and seamless end-to-end travel for all airlines and passengers: international and nationals.

While pressure is high to meet the mandate, many airports have already taken steps to implement biometrics with positive results. Since 2019, passengers departing from Miami International Airport to Munich on Lufthansa flights can board with the click of a camera instead of a boarding pass and passport, thanks to the launch by SITA’s biometric exit technology airport.

Through a partnership between SITA, MIA, Lufthansa and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a simple photograph taken at the Lufthansa boarding gate is used to confirm passenger identity and authorization to travel. The facial recognition verification process takes less than two seconds with a 99% match rate. The launch of biometric exit at Miami International follows the airport’s February 2018 opening of the United States’ first fully biometric entry facility in Concourse E, which screens all international arrivals through facial recognition. The introduction of biometrics has reduced processing times by up to 80%. Most recently, Miami International Airport selected SITA to implement biometric boarding at over 130 gates by 2023. San Diego Airport worked with SITA to deploy Smart Path facepods and implemented places an exit control solution in the United States in just a few months. Los Angeles Airport implemented SITA’s self-contained baggage drop system using TVS to bring the same contactless experience to the baggage drop process. Aruba Airport has also implemented biometric boarding of flights en route to the United States to provide this same extended value to its airline partners. In the US alone, SITA will soon support more than 1,000 Smart Path-enabled touchpoints at US airports, providing biometric passenger processing for global airlines and the passengers they serve. No other vendor in the industry offers the depth of experience, world-class solution, service or collaborative approach that the SITA-NEC partnership offers.

[1] https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-04/CBP%20-%20Biometric%20Entry-Exit%20H-1B%20and%20L-1%20Fees%20Spend%20Plan.pdf
“CBP is working toward full implementation of biometric exit in the airline environment to represent more than 97% of commercial air travelers departing from the United States.”

[2] CBP is authorized to collect this information by the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-173), the Intelligence Reform and Prevention Act of 2004 Terrorism (Pub. L. 108-458) and the Implementation Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (Pub. L. 110-53). CBP is required to verify the identity of all travelers.

Click here to learn about SITA’s solutions for biometric exit in the United States.

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