Biometric screening pilot program begins at Philadelphia International Airport

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia International Airport has begun a 45-day pilot of biometric screening technologies at three international gates in Terminal A west.

Passengers will see what look like iPads mounted near the gates of select outbound international flights on Qatar, British Airways, Lufthansa and American Airlines. The equipment, developed by veriScan, NEC and SITA is located at gates A15, A16 and A17.

When travelers approach, a facial recognition device scans their faces and compares them to a database. If the face matches, the machine will clear the passenger.

"This program has already processed almost 10-million passengers in the United States exiting the country," according to aviation consultant Grant Gray.

Gray has run biometrics trials at multiple airports and says the idea is to enhance the passenger experience, along with accuracy and security.

"It's more accurate on matching and identifying false documents," Gray said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been mandated by federal law to use biometric exit screenings for foreign nationals, excluding Canadian citizens and diplomatic and government visa holders.

"It reduces your imposter threat, and it provides a secure and efficient way to verify identity," Jeni Best, from CBP, told reporters.

PHL is the 27th airport in the U.S. with biometrics equipment.

"We, in cooperation with our airlines, started looking for opportunities where this could be implemented here to enhance our customer experience," said PHL Chief Operating Officer Keith Brune.

Anytime you board a flight biometrically, signage is mandated to be in place.

US citizens are able to opt out and be processed manually. For those US citizens who decide to proceed, officials say their pictures will not be stored for more than 12 hours.

"Once a match is made, they are deleted from our system. We do not retain them in any system within CBP outside of that 12-hour period," according to Best.

For travelers who may have their face covered, like those wearing burqas, they may have their ID checked, or be checked by another verification method.

The full implementation at 22 international gates could take up to one year. There are currently no plans in place to implement the screening on domestic flights.
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