In an effort towards making the face of a passenger the boarding pass, the union civil aviation ministry has formulated a common set of standards to enable facial recognition technology for biometric-based boarding under its Digi Yatra initiative.
The initiative is expected to encourage voluntary adoption of the new service among the passengers to enable a paper-less and hassle-free travel experience to passengers.
A technical committee including members from state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) and representatives from airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad were given the task to formulate these standards.
According to sources aware of the development, under the new plan, a passenger can create a Digi Yatra identity using a valid identification proof including voter card, driving license, Aadhaar among others, while booking a ticket and then after one-time verification process at the airport, the passenger’s face will be used as a mark of identity and boarding pass.
“The plan is to take a fresh photograph of the passenger at the airport gate and verify the name with a government-approved identification card like voter card or driving licence, whenever a passenger flies next, her travel details will be saved against her unique digital identity number and you will not be required to show any physical identity proof,” the official said.
The earlier approach to primarily use Aadhaar as the basis for this programme had hit a roadblock after a
recent verdict at the Supreme Court.
The recent ruling by the apex court banning compulsory Aadhaar usage everywhere, other than social benefit schemes and subsidies, further made government finalise a non-Aadhaar route for Digi Yatra, sources privy to the developments told CNBC-TV18.
“We did not want to face any legal hurdles. So, it’s up to the passenger to decide, which identity proof he or she wants to use for the one-time identification. After that, this data will be stored in a central database, which may be jointly owned by all airport operators,” a senior government official said.
The directorate general of civil aviation is set to soon release draft regulations on the Digi Yatra initiative for public consultation and once the rules are finalised, the airport operators will start placing orders and issuing tenders for the required biometric infrastructure.
While AAI officials expect the project to take 6-7 months for implementation at Pune, Vijayawada, Kolkata and Varanasi, private airport operators such as Bengaluru are ready to put the plan into action immediately, said people familiar with the matter.
A recent initiative by the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India to launch a pilot for linking passenger experience with aeronautical tariff — charges levied on airlines by airport operators — and the new proposed formula for greenfield airports to link tariff with services, may be another trigger for airport companies to quicken implementation of the plan.
The adoption of facial recognition-based boarding is also expected to result in better security, enhancing customer experience and reduce the waiting time.
"Throughput at airport goes up, bottlenecks come down, you can potentially do more volumes from existing infrastructure so that reflects in non-aeronautical revenue," an industry source said.Non-aeronautical revenues critically determine the financial viability of an airport, because these revenue sources tend to generate higher profit margins in comparison to aeronautical activities.