Airlines experiment with biometric scanning to speed up airport lines

“For an airline, if they can save 10 minutes boarding an airplane, that’s a big deal to them,” aviation consultant Mike Boyd told CNBC’s “On the Money” in a recent interview.

However, what passengers save on time could cost them in privacy. In a data breach announced in November, Marriott said 500 million guest records from its Starwood Hotels database were stolen—and for many guests, their passport numbers were included in that personal data.

It would suggest travelers might be cautious about granting Delta – or any other private entity – access to their passport information, something with which Boyd disagreed.

“This isn’t like China where they’re putting in a system where Big Brother watches you,” he said. “If you have a passport that’s natural and they’re using that to the highest degree to get people moving through airports.”

The biometric boarding on Delta will only be available on international flights, since it utilizes the passport photo database from US Customs and Border Protection. There’s no equivalent photo database to use for domestic flights.

“Since the core of this is your passport, if that’s not safe then let’s just not bother with anything.” Boyd said. “This isn’t Big Brother, it’s just processing faster.”

Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research predicted biometric technology will continue to be adopted. “If you can save a little bit of time upfront and get people into that queue faster, then hopefully this is making the airport screening process that much more efficient.”

Boyd added that facial recognition technology can reduce the stress associated with travel.

“Without question, it alleviates a lot of anxiety and that’s going to help airlines. It’s going to help airports,” he said. “So it’s a great idea.”

Correction: Passengers will require a passport with face scan technology.

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.

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