IATA survey finds passengers want more biometrics

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced the results of its 2021 Global Passenger Survey (GPS), which delivered two main conclusions: Passengers want to use biometric identification if it expedites travel processes, and, unsurprisingly, passengers want to spend less time waiting in lines.

“Passengers have spoken and want technology to work harder, so they spend less time ‘being processed’ or standing in queues. And they are willing to use biometric data if it delivers this result. Before traffic ramps-up, we have a window of opportunity to ensure a smooth return to travel post-pandemic and deliver long-term efficiency improvements for passengers, airlines, airports and governments,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Operations, Safety and Security.

The survey found that 73% of passengers are willing to share their biometric data to improve airport processes (up from 46% in 2019). 88% will share immigration information prior to departure for expedited processing. Just over a third of passengers (36%) have experienced the use of biometric data when traveling. Of these, 86% were satisfied with the experience.

Data protection remains a key issue with 56% indicating concern about data breaches. And passengers want clarity on who their data is being shared with (52%) and how it is used/processed (51%).

On standing in lines, 55% of passengers identified queuing at boarding as a top area for improvement. 41% of passengers identified queuing at security screening as a top priority for improvement and 38% of passengers identified queuing time at border control / immigration as a top area for improvement.

With additional document checks for COVID-19, processing time at airports is taking longer. Pre-COVID-19, the average passengers spent 1.5 hours in travel processes (check-in, security, border control, customs, and baggage claim). Current data indicates that airport processing times have ballooned to 3 hours during peak time with travel volumes at only about 30% of pre-COVID-19 levels. The greatest increases are at check-in and border control (emigration and immigration) where travel health credentials are being checked mainly as paper documents.

This exceeds the time that passengers want to spend on processes at the airport. The survey found that 85% of passengers want to spend less than 45 mins on processes at the airport if they are traveling with only hand luggage. 90% of passengers want to spend less than one hour on processes at the airport when traveling with a checked bag.