Airport Show
13 - 15 May 2025

Biometric evolution delivers seamless airport journeys

In 2023, more than 21 million passengers used biometric recognition for seamless travel through Dubai Airports. This is according to the report of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai (GDRFA Dubai). Biometric technology in airports is gradually becoming mainstream in the industry because of the end-to-end, safe, and convenient experience it is providing to passengers.

In this article

Before biometrics technology

Airport security has undergone a significant transformation since the early days. During the pioneering years, authorities used metal detectors and eventually introduced manual passenger identification checks to prevent hijackings and other incidents.

The aftermath of the 9/11 attack in the United States ultimately led the industry to adopt a range of advanced security technologies to prevent such incidents from ever happening again. Access control systems became more automated and sophisticated, thus the birth of biometric recognition methods. 

Biometric technology is now widely used in airports, offering a contactless experience and eliminating the need for paper-based identification. It also mitigates health concerns by preventing the spread of viruses through contactless methods.

Biometrics technology today

In 2002, Dubai International Airport installed electronic gates, allowing passengers to enter using smart cards. In 2017, the airport switched to smart gates that use face sensors to scan and identify travelers. The smart gates can identify passengers either through their passport, Emirates ID, e-gate card, or QR barcode generated via the GDRFA smartphone app. 

There are currently 127 smart gates operating across all terminal buildings at Dubai Airports. From 5,688,092 passengers who used the smart gates and biometric recognition systems in 2017, the number increased to 21,169,506 passengers in 2023.

Challenges associated with biometrics

The benefits of biometric recognition are clearly evident in the air travel industry. However, biometrics also come with some challenges. One concern among passengers is their privacy, where people question the security of their personal data and their inability to control the collection and usage of their information. Some consumers are also concerned that interacting with biometric technology may cause physical harm, like getting too close to sensors while using iris recognition modalities. 

At the Dubai International Airport, one of the most prominent challenges was the use of the Emirati identity. Thankfully, modern cameras have been operating since 2018, recording biometric data for all travelers. 

To further help passengers, smart gate logos were added for visa holders and pre-registered passengers. The logos serve as a guide for passengers to know where to stand in a specific location within the smart gate for the speedy completion of capturing biometric fingerprints.

High customer satisfaction rate

While there have been challenges in the adoption of biometric recognition, a lot of people are still satisfied with this innovation. There has been growing confidence in biometric identification, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) annual Global Passenger Survey. The results show that 75% of passengers prefer using biometric data over traditional passports and boarding passes. 

While only 50% of travelers used smart gates in 2023, 98% of them reported that they were satisfied with the smart gate service at Dubai Airport. This just shows that the smart gate installation resulted in an improved customer happiness rate. Major General Al Shanqeeti also added that families can use the smart gates.

Biometrics technology is here to stay

Biometrics is transforming air travel and the overall passenger experience. Not only does it offer security and efficiency, but it also makes the travel experience faster and less congested. Through biometrics, the air travel sector will be able to provide fluidity while keeping passenger data secure and costs under control. Indeed, technology is vital to advancing airport processes.  

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