Alaska Airlines is at it again. The innovative U.S. carrier is looking to lessen airport wait times by piloting a new system for check-in and boarding that screens passengers by taking their thumb print instead of the current and more conventional passport or driver’s license checks.
The new process promises a substantially faster airport experience by alleviating the current, painstakingly long line-ups at security checkpoints and baggage drop stations. America’s sixth largest airline has been testing the new technology since August of this year and currently uses the ‘e-thumb’ system to admit Alaska Airline frequent flyers into their airport lounge in their Seattle hub.
While bio-metrics are already used in the world’s airports as part of the NEXUS program and up to 300,000 non-Americans have their fingerprint taken every day in airports across the U.S., the big question surrounding the new Alaska Airlines initiative remains the sensitive data’s security and the public’s privacy.
Alaska Airlines claims they don’t store any fingerprint information but even if privacy concerns were overcome, there is still logistical work to be done to perfect the system. By eliminating the paper boarding pass, travellers wouldn’t have their gate information, boarding time and seat numbers to double check but a simple SMS message or email from the airline could easily solve that.
With the new ‘e-thumb’ program, Alaska Airlines maintains its status as the technological leader in the aviation industry, being the first airline to offer e-ticketing in the 1990’s, electronic check-in in 2001 and allowing their passengers to check-in and board using Google Wallet last year.
Once all the kinks are worked out, and as with all technological advancements, it will be up to the TSA (Transport Security Administration) and federal U.S. approval to authorize and implement the system on a large scale, but for now, the idea of thumbing a ride on a plane remains merely a possibility of things to come.