The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has successfully tested an end-to-end digital ID proof-of-concept (PoC) that enables air travellers to use biometric digital credentials to verify their identity at every stage of their journey – from purchasing a ticket to arriving at their destination.
A passenger on a British Airways flight between London’s Heathrow and Rome’s Fiumicino airports became the first to complete a journey using IATA’s interoperable solution that enabled them to receive personalised offers when booking, store their ticket in their digital wallet, share their digital passport and order data with the airline to confirm their ‘ready to fly’ status, and use biometric data stored on their smartphone to pass through contactless biometric security gates at the airport and board their flight.
“The PoC illustrates interoperability throughout the entire travel value chain by incorporating various credentials, ie digital version of passport, live face image, loyalty programs and order information,” IATA says in a PoC preview paper explaining the end-to-end digital ID concept.
“These credentials, issued and utilised by different parties for various purposes, exemplify the essential interoperability required within the industry’s global network and travel value chain.
“Simultaneously, the PoC emphasises customer centricity, placing the passenger in control of their information. Passengers have the autonomy to decide which details they want to share with other parties.
“During the process, the passenger can opt to disclose only essential information, eg passport name, nationality and loyalty tier level, without revealing their complete passport or loyalty membership information.
“Additionally, the PoC streamlines processes and enhances the passenger experience by enabling seamless sharing of relevant credentials from their digital wallet. This eliminates the need to manage multiple records, ensuring a hassle-free interaction with various services.
“Moreover, passengers can complete document checks remotely by sharing their credentials in advance. This allows the passenger to arrive at the airport ‘ready to fly’ and use biometrics for an efficient, contactless experience.”
“In future, a smart phone storing a digital wallet that is loaded with your digital passport, loyalty cards and other verifiable travel credentials, is all that will be needed to travel,” IATA’s Nick Careen says.
“Achieving that reality needs the kind of cooperation that we have demonstrated today with 11 companies coming together to facilitate the first fully integrated digital journey.
“Success, of course, is underpinned by interoperability and global standards — so the advantage of the digital travel conveniences are available to travellers throughout their journey and wherever it may take them.”
A short video shows how the end-to-end digital ID POC works in practice.
Transport and technology providers involved in the IATA project include Accenture, Amadeus, Australian Border Force, AWS, Branchspace, British Airways, IDnow, Aeroporti di Roma, SICPA, Trip.com and Verchaska.
IATA published standards to support the rollout of contactless biometric ID for document-free international air travel in December 2022.
British Airways began trialling a biometric check-in and boarding system for international flights from London Heathrow in November 2022.