No more boarding cards? YVR to start scanning your face

Air Canada will be the country’s first airline to launch digital identification for flights, only at the Vancouver airport.

Photo: CNW Group/Air Canada

When you head to YVR in the near future, you might not need your government ID — or even your ticket — to get on your plane.

Air Canada has announced the launch of digital identification, making it the first airline in the country with approval to offer customers use of facial recognition to confirm who they are. The airline’s pilot project will run for those boarding at Vancouver International Airport, and will at first only be available to those on select flights to Winnipeg.

"Many of our customers already utilize digital credentials to simplify their daily activities such as unlocking mobile phones, entering workplaces, verifying identification during financial transactions, and more,” said Craig Landry, executive vice president and chief operations officer at Air Canada. “We are very excited to now take a leadership position in Canada and test digital identification using facial recognition technology to validate customer identification quickly, securely, and accurately at select airport touchpoints.”

The new technology will allow customers to go through multiple areas of the airport along their journey — most significantly their boarding gate — without needing to show their boarding pass or government ID.

To do so, customers must opt in using the Air Canada app, and the digital identification technology will take measurements of their face and create a numeric representation called a faceprint. The airline says the faceprint is then compared to the image from a passengers’ government ID, and if there is a match, the image is immediately destroyed and the traveller is assigned a unique identifier that doesn’t contain biometric information. This unique identifier is stored on a passenger’s cellphone, along with their name, date of birth, and document type and number. Customers must provide additional consent for that data to be used day-of-travel, and any biometric images taken will only be retained for up to 36 hours.

Air Canada says the new technology will be secure, seamless, and safe. Customers can enroll, create, authenticate, and control the use of their digital profile from anywhere, allowing them to “say goodbye to hands full of passports and boarding passes at the airport.” Digital-only tech also reduces touchpoints and physical contact between passengers and airport agents by removing the need to exchange documents and devices. The company addresses questions over security with a lengthy Q and A.

The program remains opt-in at this stage, and customers who do not wish to use digital identification can board as they currently do by presenting their boarding pass and government-issued photo ID for manual checking. Those who choose the digital ID option will still need to bring their passport or other travel identity documents to meet entry and exit requirements if they’re flying internationally, or if they’re connecting on partner airlines.

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