Courtesy of Alaska Airlines
Amy McKeever
July 31, 2015

Alaska Airlines fliers may soon be trading in their boarding passes for their fingerprints. Since mid-April, the airline has been testing using biometrics for check-in, security, and boarding at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. And, according to the Alaska Airlines blog, those tests appear to have gone well — the airline is “already thinking about next steps.”

Alaska first began testing biometric identification systems last fall when it rolled out these fingerprint scanners at its four airport lounges in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and Anchorage. At the time, Jerry Tolzman, manager of customer research and development, told the LA Times that expanding beyond the lounges would be a challenge that would require coordinating with the Transportation Security Administration.

But in April, Alaska Airlines partnered up with CLEAR at the San Jose airport to experiment with just that. Available in just 12 American airports, CLEAR uses biometrics to speed up boarding for its members using a “Fast Touch” technology platform. San Jose is one of those airports; that, along with its proximity to the tech geeks of Silicon Valley, made it the ideal airport for the Alaska Airlines testing.

Alaska Airlines reports that “hundreds” of fliers have participated in this test of using fingerprints rather than boarding passes, and that the feedback has largely been positive. There’s no word yet on when or how the airline might roll out biometrics beyond the test phase, but it stands to reason that other CLEAR-equipped airports that are also Alaska Airlines destinations could be next. Stay tuned.

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