Updated May 14, 2022 - Technology

All airport security hassles could eventually become obsolete

Illustration of an airport check-in sign with a happy face
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new report on the future of travel envisions that biometrics could eliminate airport security hassles, making the days of removing your shoes and belt before you board obsolete.

Why it matters: Flying was a far more pleasant experience before today's onerous passenger screenings became necessary. If facial recognition and other technology can handle security checks invisibly, airports can one day become enjoyable social and retail hubs.

Driving the news: The airport of 2038 will be a "place of encounter," where passengers arrive "ready to fly," thanks to ubiquitous scanners and cameras that evaluate security threats "multiple times a minute, all as you go about your day," according to a report on the future by Delaware North.

  • There won't be a need to differentiate "sterile" and "non-sterile" areas of the airport — everyone will be free to go straight to their flight.
  • "We’ll even be allowed to walk loved ones to their gates again," according to the vision laid out by Delaware North, which operates retail stores and restaurants in airports.
  • "We’ll be able to order food from our favorite eatery to be delivered gateside rather than relying on sterileside airport concessionaires, since every person in the terminal will be checked by cameras and sensors at all times and processed remotely, regardless of whether they have a plane ticket," the report said.

Reality check: Privacy concerns are likely to accompany the continued rollout of biometric monitoring, but, let's face it — the horse is already out of the barn.

  • Systems like CLEAR and TSA pre-check already pre-screen passengers to some extent — and Delta debuted its first "biometric terminal" at Atlanta-Hartsfield in 2018.
  • "Sixty-four percent of airports globally plan to roll out self-boarding gates using biometrics and ID documentation by 2023, three times as many as in 2020," per the Delaware North report.
  • "In five years, ubiquitous tech and security protocols will blend biometrics with wearable technology such as watches, rings and other jewelry to expedite access even more."

What they're saying: Under the scenario outlined in the report, "people would go to the airport and have a meal," Todd Merry, the chief marketing officer of Delaware North, tells Axios. "It becomes much more of a destination than just a transit point for people getting on a flight."

  • Merry acknowledged that the projection was a rosy one that would benefit his company. But he noted that everyone would gain if "we could transform travel from a necessary chore to something that people again look forward to."

Editor's note: This story was originally published on May 10.

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