Airport check-in set to be a breeze with biometric identification

The civil aviation ministry, which has toyed with the idea of a biometric identification system at airports for long, is close to rolling it out. Similar to marquee airports such as Schiphol (Amsterdam), Brisbane and Hamad (Doha), travellers could soon enter Indian airports without flashing their identity cards and clear the check-in process through fingerprint and iris scan. 

To make this happen, the ministry has asked software giant Wipro to study the prospect of building an integrated platform that will use a passenger’s Aadhaar-based biometric information for the check-in process across all airports. The idea, officials said, was to cut down the time a passenger spends in airport queues. In a small way, the process has already been tried — at a few gates of the GMR-owned Hyderabad Airport.

“Wipro has been told to study whether such an integrated, e-enabled platform can be developed so that all airports can use the database to enable the biometric entry facility across Indian airports,” Guruprasad Mohapatra, chairman, Airports Authority of India (AAI), told Business Standard.

The decision was taken following a meeting of the Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, with operators of all airport, private-owned ones such as New Delhi and Mumbai.

Wipro is likely to give a feasibility report within a month, it is learnt.

Senior ministry officials said as a part of the process, Aadhaar card numbers could be made mandatory for a passenger to book a flight ticket. 

“Linking Aadhaar numbers to air ticket bookings is certainly an option the ministry is considering but nothing has been finalised. We are evaluating what other process of check-in we can use,” according to a ministry official. Airline companies have asked the ministry to make Aadhaar compulsory for booking tickets.

With such a database, kiosks can be built at separate points of the airport, including boarding gates, through which a passenger can just walk in without any manual inspection, another official pointed out. 

Preparation is already in progress. “We are planning to have a pilot project on Aadhaar-enabled entry at some of our gates,” said Rajiv Jain, chief executive officer of Mumbai International Airport Limited.

AAI, through partnership with Boston Consulting Group, is studying the time required for check-in process at some busy airports, including Chennai, Guwahati, Bhubaneswar and Goa. 

Amber Dubey, India head of aerospace and defence at KPMG, said biometrics make passenger verification and handling faster and more secure. “In the next 12-18 months, the top 25 airports should try to become paperless with the help of biometrics. Aadhaar at the time of booking will prevent identity frauds,” he said.

IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways and GoAir did not respond to queries. But, airline executives, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the airline lobby, Federation of Indian Airlines, has supported such a move. “We have to make some form of concrete identification mandatory for the passenger. At present, the Aadhaar card seems to be the most acceptable,’’ the executive said.

How it will be done
  • Aadhaar will be linked to ticket bookings 
  • A database of biometric details, such as iris and thumbprint, will be built 
  • Passengers can get their biometric details scanned at airport check points
How it will help
  • Passengers can check in faster at Indian airports, saving time 
  • Biometric entry will make the process seamless
At Indian airports
  • Currently, Hyderabad airport enables biometric check-in at selected gates

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