Star Alliance has signed a partnership agreement with NEC Corporation to develop a biometric data-based identification platform for its member airlines’ frequent flyer programs.
In a joint statement, Star Alliance and NEC said the platform would advance their “strategic vision of delivering a seamless customer journey, while strengthening loyalty value proposition within the travel ecosystem”.
The service will be available to travellers who are both enrolled in one of the Star Alliance member airline’s frequent flyer programs and have authorised the use of their biometric data.
For travellers who opt in, the biometric identification system based on facial recognition technology would enable hands-free passage through check-in kiosks, bag-drop, lounges, and boarding gates, which currently require both a passport and boarding pass, Star Alliance and NEC Corporation said.
The biometric system was expected to make its debut at a Star Alliance airport hub by the first quarter of calendar 2020.
While the platform would allow a seamless boarding experience, that was not guaranteed – passengers may still need to produce their passports as they negotiated security and immigration procedures.
In the statement, the partners said personal data including photo and other identification information would be encrypted and safely stored within the platform, which has been designed to comply with data protection laws.
”Personal data will only be processed with the consent of the passenger,” the pair said in the joint statement.
Star Alliance chief executive Jeffrey Goh said NEC was a strong partner with a shared vision for seamless air travel experience.
“At Star Alliance we are committed to making the customer journey better, and this strategic partnership with NEC will help us make the way from curb to gate to aircraft a much simpler, yet innovative experience for our customers,” Goh said
NEC Corporation chief executive Takashi Niino said the copmany was pleased to work with the alliance to improve the customer experience.
“Facial recognition is truly revolutionising the airline industry and making flying more enjoyable, just as it was always intended,” Niino said.
“In support of this partnership, similar to our implementations in United States, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, NEC will mobilise its global resources and provide local assistance to each of the member airlines to leverage this secure, interoperable platform and rapidly bring our common vision to reality.”
Star Alliance currently has no Australian carriers on its global roster of 28 airlines which service over 1,300 airports with more 19,000 flights daily.
However, 11 of its 28 members serve Australia with their own aircraft. The 11 were Air New Zealand, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Thai Airways and United.
The work with NEC is the latest initiative from Star Alliance on harnessing the power of digital technology to give passengers a seamless travel experience when flying on its member carriers.
The Alliance has also been working on giving passengers the ability to do things such as select their seat and checkin for any Star Alliance flight using the app or website of any Star Alliance member.
The ability to check for redemption seats across the alliance from any member airline website or app is also being rolled out, as well as being able to use frequent flyer miles from any member airline’s program as a form of payment across the alliance.
It has also conducted a proof of concept trial where assistance for passengers on tight connections at London Heathrow Terminal 2 was provided via a digital device, which showed directions from the arrival gate to their departing flight, as well as vouchers for expedited border clearance and security checks.
VIDEO: A promotional video about Star Alliance’s technology initiatives from its YouTube channel.