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Philadelphia International Airport to Begin 45-day Biometric Screening Pilot Program

One of Philadelphia International Airport’s art exhibits. (Photo: Philadelphia International Airport)

On Jan. 21, 2020, Philadelphia International Airport will begin a 45-day pilot program at three of its international gates. The program is designed to help U.S. Customs and Border Patrol process departing passengers.

Philadelphia International will test three different biometric systems: veriSCAN, NEC, and SITA. All three systems will be tested within the airport’s Terminal A at gates 15, 16, and 17. Not all flights will be part of the test. According to the airport, select outbound international flights on Qatar, British Airways, Lufthansa and American Airlines will be included in the test.

You may be familiar with the term “biometric screening.” The term is often used in the context of medical tests; such as blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, and the like. However, in the world of airport biometric exit screening, the term refers to facial recognition.

In order to obtain the facial scan, a tablet-like device is mounted on the boarding gate kiosk. As a traveler walks toward the device, the facial scan is obtained and compared to a database. Travelers can opt-out of the test by notifying an official. Of course, the traveler’s identity and documents will still be verified through other means.

The airport’s test of the biometric screenings will also be the first to include digital instruction signs. Digital signs will be used to display bilingual instructions and content designed to help make passenger flow more efficient and decrease reliance on the airport’s PA system.

After the 45-day test is completed, the results will be analyzed through May 1, 2020 in order to determine which of the three systems demonstrated the best performance. The airport reports that full implementation of the biometric screening technology may take up to a year.

Although photos of U.S. Citizens are discarded within 12 hours of identity verification, the test program and eventual implementation of facial recognition technology are sure to spark concerns over privacy and what happens with the data obtained between the time it is collected and discarded.

Jordan Green


  • Jordan Green

    Jordan joined the AG team in 2018 after attending AAviationDay in Philadelphia. He is actively pursuing his private pilot certificate and has been an aviation enthusiast since childhood. An attorney by trade, Jordan jokingly refers to himself as a “recovering litigator” and now focuses on subcontracts management. Jordan focuses his writing on innovations in commercial aviation, aviation history, and other interesting topics he feels are worthy of discussion in the community.

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