No passport required on some JetBlue flights.

By Evie Carrick
Updated: April 30, 2019

Having your face scanned to ensure you are who you say you are may sound like something out of a dystopian film or science-fiction movie, but that’s exactly where the future of air travel is heading.

Through a partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, JetBlue has been verifying the identity of passengers using facial recognition software — a practice they’re expanding.

And while JetBlue may be an early adopter as “the first domestic airline to launch a fully-integrated biometric self-boarding gate for international flights” a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security stated facial recognition technology should be almost completely implemented for air travel in the next four years.

Here’s how it works: The biometric matching service “leverages existing advance passenger information to create a pre-positioned ‘gallery’ of face images,” meaning the images come from passport applications, visa applications, or previous interactions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The software compares the new, live photo of the traveler to this gallery of pre-existing images in order to identify the traveler.

JetBlue first piloted its biometric software recognition program in 2017 and has since verified over 50,000 customers according to reporting by Boston Herald.

Boston Globe/Getty Images

Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said that “over two million passengers on over 15,000 flights have used the technology on exit, with an average biometric match rate of 98 percent.”

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