Airlines testing technology to replace boarding passes

ARLINGTON, V.A. - With more than 2 million people per day moving through the nation's airports, airlines are testing new technology to improve security and speed up the boarding process. That includes new biometric technology that could mean boarding a plane with just your face.

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Airlines like JetBlue are trying out facial recognition technology

CBS News

CBS News saw one JetBlue flight from Boston to Aruba with passengers who were allowed to get on the plane without a boarding pass.

"It amazes me," said one passenger on the flight. "Every year things change. It just amazes me, the technology."

In seconds, facial recognition technology can compare a picture taken at the gate against the flier's passport picture stored in a government database.

Delta is testing the technology in New York and Atlanta, as well as a facial recognition bag-drop in Minneapolis. It's part of a larger effort to allow passengers to navigate the airport with just their faces and fingerprints.   

"Marrying all of the technologies at each of the steps in the travel ribbon is a game changer for the experience," said Gareth Joyce, senior vice president of airport customer service and president of cargo at Delta. "You can literally go from, you know, curb to plane without having to interact with a human being if you so desire."

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Clear is one option used at airports to cut down on long security lines

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There's also Clear, a private company that stores and verifies customers' biometrics, allowing fliers to go to the front of the security line at 24 airports nationwide.

But a new report questions if it's legal for the government to use facial recognition on American citizens. Two senators are asking Customs and Border Protection to halt expansion of the testing amid security concerns.

"As we consolidate biometric data into big databases and we use it more and more, those databases will become targets, and the risk of data breach increases greatly," said Jeramie Scott, with the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The Transportation Security Administration is testing fingerprint verification at checkpoints in at least two airports, and at Reagan National, certain Delta flyers can already use their fingerprint as their boarding pass.