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Is tech the answer to this summer’s airport pressure?



Three questions to Philippe Vallée, EVP Digital Identity & Security at Thales


Philippe, is tech the answer to this summer’s airport pressure?

"After nearly two years of lockdowns and restrictions, it looks like we’re set for one of the busiest summers on record.

Travel wasn’t impossible during much of the pandemic, but the logistics involved and the constant fear that you may end up stranded somewhere, took the joy out of it somewhat. And air travel still isn’t pain-free for the passenger.

Holidays are meant to be a relaxing experience. However, rather than the glorious return to normality that the travel industry had been hoping for, it seems things might be a little more complicated in reality… And even if the tension is perceptible there’s no single issue to blame here: it’s an unfortunate combination of factors as we restart travelling.

My colleagues and I have long extolled the virtues of new technology to help airports operate more efficiently and improve the passenger experience. There are many  ways this can be done."


Concretely, how can Thales technologies help?

"Today we still have to keep track of our ID card, passport, boarding pass, visas – it feels like we are constantly rooting around trying to get something out of our bag.

Imagine how much easier, and smoother, the whole experience would be if it was managed through one digital wallet or QR code. Thankfully this isn’t something for the future but is beginning to be rolled out - American airlines recently announced the launch of their Mobile ID app, which uses digital ID technology from Thales to turn physical ID’s (passports and driving licences) into digital, TSA-approved copies – easing those airport security queues.

So Digital ID is clearly top of the holiday wish list! There’s no doubt that Digital ID will help with the efficiency and smooth running of airports. What we are really targeting though is for  customers to get a completely seamless travel experience, moving through checkpoints as quickly as possible, while never compromising on security." 


So is ‘self-service’ the new norm for future airports?

"Self-service operations already exist at some airports (ref: PARAFE or any other Thales border management system), but this could be taken even further by harnessing the power of biometrics to create a frictionless air passenger experience. Biometrics is one of the most secure means of identification, so imagine if it could be used to create a unique ID allowing passage through the airport. Facial recognition could then make bag drop, border control, security and gate access a whole lot faster.

Biometrics isn’t the only technology that looks set take the stress and queueing out of air travel. Thanks to the next generation of security scanners we soon won’t have to take electronic devices or liquids out of our bags, which also means there’s less chance I could lose them or any of my documents along the way! "