London Heathrow, one of the world's busiest and by many most hated airports is getting a major biometric upgrade that's aimed at moving passengers quickly through the boarding processes with minimal stops to show various forms of ID.
The center of the plan is to use facial recognition technologies to move nearly all passengers through the terminal and security and onto planes without stopping to show passports, boarding passes, and other documents repeatedly. An initial match of document and passenger would allow checkpoints throughout the process to recognize the passenger without stopping.
If it works, and parts of it are already in place for domestic flights, it could mean a big speedup for international travelers, whose pathway through Heathrow can be especially arduous if changing terminals. Since many flights arriving from the U.S. use Terminal 3 and must be bused to Terminal 5 for many of the ongoing European connections, eliminating duplicate checking offers real savings.
The implementation will go into high gear starting this coming summer. So far, it will rely on passengers' willingness to share their biometric data with airlines and government agencies; studies by the International Air Transport Association indicate that nearly 2/3 of all passengers are willing. From the security point of view, facial scanning has reached a point where it is believed to be more accurate than manual.