Next year, international passengers flying out of Singapore could find their journey more hassle-free than ever as the city-state’s world-famous airport announced plans to introduce automated immigration controls, allowing passengers to use biometric data instead of traditional passports.
Under the new system planned at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), one of the busiest and most highly-rated airports, passengers departing on international flights can pass through the various checkpoints throughout the airport using only their biometric data.
This data will be collected from fingerprint scans and facial recognition technology, meaning passengers won’t have to show their physical passports before boarding their flight.
Changi Airport already uses biometric technology at specific automated immigration lanes, but the new system will replace passport checks with biometric technology throughout the departure process, from check-in and baggage drops to immigration clearance and gate boarding.
However, passengers would still be advised to take their passports when traveling, as the vast majority of airports worldwide will still require them for immigration clearance at their destination.
“Singapore will be one of the first few countries in the world to introduce automated, passport-free immigration clearance,” said Josephine Teo, Singapore’s Minister of Communications and Information, in a speech to parliament on Monday, September 18th.
“This will reduce the need for passengers to repeatedly present their travel documents at these touchpoints, allowing for more seamless and convenient processing,” she added.
Singapore Changi Airport is often at the forefront of innovation regarding airport technology, and it is consistently rated among the best airports in the world for passenger experience, including taking the top spot in Skytrax’s 2023 rankings.
This year, Singapore Changi Airport is also one of the three nominees for the title of the world’s best airport in the Business Traveler USA Awards.
The airport is also a tourist destination, with sights including a butterfly garden and the HSBC Rain Vortex, the tallest indoor waterfall in the world.
Home to Singapore Airlines, Changi is also one of the world’s busiest, serving more than 100 airlines and offering flights to around 400 destinations in over 100 countries and territories worldwide.
The airport saw more than 5.15 million passengers pass through its four terminals in August alone, and passenger volumes are expected to continue to rise following the recent dip caused by pandemic restrictions, especially once the airport’s fifth terminal is built, which is expected to be completed by 2030.
“Our immigration systems must be able to manage this high and growing volume of travelers efficiently and provide a positive clearance experience while ensuring our security,” said Teo.
Singapore Changi is not the only airport to use biometric data technology at immigration clearance checkpoints. Dubai International Airport (DXB) introduced biometric ‘Smart Gate’ tunnels in 2018. Emirates recently suggested that all its passengers could travel through the airport’s Terminal 3 entirely passport-free as early as November this year.
Other airports across the world that use biometric technology to some extent include London Heathrow (LHR), Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Hong Kong International (HKG), Delhi Indira Gandhi (DEL), and Tokyo’s Haneda (HND) and Narita (NRT) airports.