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Face scans replace paper boarding passes at Atlanta airport

Atlanta

FACE scans have officially replaced paper boarding passes and passports for travellers flying to select international destinations out of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Delta Air Lines has unveiled the first all-biometric terminal. Now, travellers on certain international flights will be able to use their faces to check baggage and board their flight.

Delta, Aeromexico, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic Airways are the airlines using the technology for flights that operate out of Hartsfield's Terminal F.

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"Delta's successful launch of the first biometric terminal in the US at the world's busiest airport means we are designing the airport biometric experience blueprint for the industry," Delta CEO Gil West said at the launch last week.

The airline, which already had some of the technology in place leading up to the launch this month, said about 25,000 passengers move through the terminal each week and most are already taking advantage of the technology. Only about 2 per cent of travellers opt out.

Mr West said Delta will expand the biometric programme to its hub in Detroit next year.

Here's how the system in Atlanta works: Passengers travelling through Terminal 7 enter their passport information when they check-in online.

Then, when they approach a kiosk in the lobby, a camera at the counter in the lobby or the Transportation Security Administration security checkpoint they click "Look" when it appears on the screen. The device takes their picture - and if a green check mark flashes on the screen, they proceed through the system. Travellers' pictures are compared to a CBP database.

US Customs and Border Protection has been using biometrics to track passengers entering the US.

An increasing number of airports are using biometrics to process passengers as they move through the system. Dulles International Airport recently unveiled a system that uses iPads to scan passengers' faces before they board flights.

But the practice has drawn scrutiny from privacy advocates and civil libertarians who are concerned about the accuracy and potential misuse of the data being collected. While Congress has called for such systems, others worry that the United States is investing billions in a programme that may not necessarily keep the nation safer.

Airlines such as Delta are betting that the convenience of a system that eliminates the need for passports and drivers' licenses will outweigh any privacy concerns of travellers.

CBP commissioner Kevin McAleenan said that biometric technology in place at Los Angeles International Airport has helped planes board more quickly. For example, officials were able to load an A380 with more than 350 passengers in less than 20 minutes - half the time it would normally take, he said. WP