IATA will put forward a resolution at its forthcoming AGM in Seoul aimed at accelerating implementation of its One ID biometric identity initiative, which it says is vital to ensuring smooth passenger journeys as the air transport sector continues to expand.
One ID seeks to use fingerprint, iris or facial recognition technology to reduce the need for repetitive identity checks at airports and create a seamless, end-to-end passenger process. While the technology exists, regulatory hurdles and a reluctance to share information must be overcome before widespread implementation can become a reality.
"The real reason behind it [One ID] is that we're all talking about two-times growth by 2035, and we're not going to be able to do what we do today in the same way," says IATA's senior vice-president airport, passenger, cargo and security, Nick Careen, pointing to airports such as London Heathrow which are already "saturated from multiple points".
"There is not one airport on the planet handling 10 million-plus passengers annually that doesn't have a plan to implement some sort of biometric into the passenger journey," says Careen.
He adds that IATA is taking a three-pillar approach to the issue, based on "harmonisation, standardisation and interoperability".
In addition to making passenger journeys smoother, the shared use of biometric identity checks could bring a "step change" when it comes to taking a more risk-based approach to security, argues Careen. It could also "free up about 40% of the terminal space" because certain areas of the airport would no longer need to be "completely quarantined off".
"When information is shared it allows countries to have the information they need and not have to stop co-mingling from happening," he explains.
Despite these perceived advantages, Careen says there is a "real reluctance country-by-country and airport-by-airport" to share information. There is also a "lack of regulation and standards" that must be addressed.
The "main reason" for putting forward a resolution on One ID, says Careen, is "to get the support of our airlines so we can utilise that for our advocacy".
On the issue of privacy concerns, Careen says: "The entire premise of utilising this information is no different to using a passport. You're essentially replacing it with another biometric, which will be used and then discarded." There are "all sorts of ways" to address privacy concerns, including an "opt-in or opt-out" approach, he adds.
While IATA's goal for implementing One ID was "yesterday", in reality Careen expects it to take between five and 10 years before full, global adoption becomes a reality.
"You're going to see pockets of implementation," he says, starting with the Five Eyes – an alliance of five countries comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA, which have agreed to co-operate on intelligence issues. "We've also seen a lot of interest in the UAE," he adds.
"If we target and prioritise the biggest markets then the consumer will take over," says Careen. "There is a business case for this – customers want it, the industry wants it, and governments and industry will need it."