Air Canada has become the first airline in Canada to embrace biometric digital ID for travelers, allowing participants in a new pilot to use their mobile devices for identification at certain airport touchpoints.
The pilot got underway this week at Vancouver International Airport, with travelers headed to Winnipeg being offered the option to participate through a notification via the Air Canada app. Those who opt in are asked to upload a selfie photo along with an image of their passport, and to use the app to scan their e-passport chip using NFC technology. Facial recognition is used to match them images together, thereby verifying a traveler’s identity.
If the process is successful, a digital profile is created on the app, and the traveler can use it in lieu of a boarding pass and physical ID when boarding eligible flights. Air Canada says that the digital profiles, including biometric data, are encrypted and stored only on the traveler’s device.
In addition to enabling mobile-based boarding on Vancouver-Winnipeg flights, the digital profiles will also be accepted for entry into the Maple Leaf Lounge at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport starting on Thursday of this week, and Air Canada says it plans to extend the digital ID boarding system to Vancouver-Toronto flights in the near future.
In a statement, Canada’s Transport Minister, Omar Alghabra, welcomed the development.
“Air Canada’s pilot project will speed up processes at YVR, and other airports where it’s established, while respecting robust privacy measures and security standards,” he said. “This project has great potential in making gate boarding easier and faster for Canadian passengers, while maintaining strong safety measures.”
While Air Canada’s is a private initiative, government authorities in the country have been working on digital traveler ID for years, with a Transport Canada spokesperson having confirmed earlier this year that the “Known Traveller Digital Identity” project undertaken with the World Economic Forum, INTERPOL, and other partners remains underway.