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Air Canada Rolls Out Biometric Boarding at SFO

The carrier says it plans to expand program to other US airports, and is exploring options for Canadian airports as well

December 10, 2020

In a first for a Canadian airline, Air Canada has begun to roll out facial recognition to speed its boarding process. The technology is being made available as an option for customers departing San Francisco International Airport, with plans to progressively roll it out at other US airports where the carrier flies.

During the biometric boarding process at the gate, the customer’s photo is captured. The image is then compared to the passenger’s passport document details and photo, which are already stored in the US Customs and Border Protection’s Traveler Verification Service.

In a matter of seconds, CBP’s biometric facial comparison service will automatically compare the new photo of the traveler with images that the traveler has already provided to the government, such as passport and visa photos.

Customers who want to opt out of biometric boarding can board as before by presenting their boarding pass and passport for manual ID processing.

Biometric boarding is one of a number of contactless measures the carrier has introduced over the past few months, including touch-free bag check for flights departing Canadian airports and new biosafety protocols at its Maple Leaf Lounges. 

“Air Canada has introduced numerous touchless processes throughout the customer journey,” according to Andrew Yiu, vice president of product at Air Canada. “We are pleased to now offer an optional, innovative biometric boarding choice for customers departing SFO that is seamless, time-saving and convenient while reducing contact and processing time.”

At this point however, travel between the US and Canada is still restricted. According to the Canadian government, US citizens and foreign nationals arriving from the United States are limited to ‘essential travel,’ and still require a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

The restrictions on US travel are in place until Dec. 21 and may be extended at that time, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement. Canada says will extend its restrictions for travelers from all other countries, except from the United States, until Jan. 21.