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Tampa International Airport introduces biometric screening for international flights

Futuristic stainless steel machines with glass panes and green lights rest at an airport gate with a digital screen projecting out of it.
Tampa International Airport
As soon as the automatic gates open for the passenger to pass through, they will immediately close before the next passenger enters, preventing piggybacking during the boarding process.

The face-recognition technology is being used exclusively for international flights as a way to speed up the boarding process.

Tampa International Airport has begun using equipment designed to make boarding for international flights quicker and safer.

After a years-long pilot program, eight biometric scanners are being used exclusively at international gates to improve efficiency, safety and convenience during the boarding process — and more are on their way.

"We are joining the ranks of other major airports using this new technology to speed up and simplify the airport experience," David Golden, IT analyst for the airport, said in a news release. "Multiple airlines are currently working with the airport to implement this new process and our goal is to have multiple biometric scanners in use soon.”

How does it work?

The biometric scanner will take a photo of the passenger, compare that with the passport photo on file with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, check to see if the passenger's name is on the flight manifest, and will then clear or reject the passenger — all within five seconds.

Airport say this process will significantly speed the process of boarding passengers for international flights.

A plane carrying approximately 130 passengers will now be able to board in 11 minutes with the use of biometric scanners, officials say, while the current average boarding time for a plan of that size is around 30-40 minutes.

The technology is a precursor, as U.S. Customs will require all U.S. international flights use biometric scanners by 2024.

Within the next 10 to 15 years, airport officials expect to have the technology in place for passengers to use biometrics to check a bag, use the shuttles, pass through TSA and board a flight, all without needing a paper boarding pass.

“The ones we’ve been implementing at TPA will replace, in many cases, the traditional boarding pass scanners,” Golden said.

Sarah Petrowich is the WUSF Stephen Noble Social Media intern for summer of 2022.