Singapore, Dubai, Aruba Airports Embrace Biometrics for Passport-free Traveler Clearance

By Joel R. McConvey

Among applications of biometrics likely to bring the majority of people on board with their widespread use, a less painful airport experience must rank near the top. Any traveler who has felt panic over a lost passport will now have new options at airports in Singapore and Dubai, where airports are introducing end-to-end biometric clearance.

Starting in 2024, Singapore’s Changi Airport will implement biometrics for automated authentication throughout the airport experience, including bag drop, boarding and immigration. According to the South China Morning Post, Changi projects a return to pre-pandemic levels of traffic, and hopes the biometric modifications will help make passenger flow smoother, as the airport called the best in the world gets busy once again.

Late 2023 launch for passport-free travel in Dubai

Those traveling through Terminal 3 of Dubai Airport will be able to do so without a passport by the end of this year, says an article in Khaleej Times.

Facial recognition and biometric ID will allow passengers to clear all necessary procedures without taking out a passport, instead using their fingerprints, face scans or other biometrics for authentication in a “smart passage.”

Speaking at the Global Conference for Shaping Future Policies on Ports in Dubai, Major General Obaid Muhair bin Suroor, deputy director general of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) said the system would likely be ready in November and promised to “replace electronic gates with smart gates for easy and seamless travel.” It builds on what is already a comprehensive biometric system, deployed by Vision-Box in 2020.

Aruba and SITA: lose the passport, have a margarita

Seamless travel is big business, but also makes for better leisure. In Aruba, SITA has developed Digital Travel Credentials (DTC) that let passengers create a secure digital version of their passport on their mobile device. The digital ID, which is compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, is intended to allow travelers to consent to allow select data to be available across services, from immigration and customs to tourist destinations such as hotels and car rental agencies.

In a release, Andrew Hoo, director of immigration for the Government of Aruba, says the digital ID is aimed at helping people ease into the island experience.

“We want to use this technology so that visitors will never forget they are on vacation when they arrive on the island,” says Hoo. “As an island where tourism is fundamental to our economy, we want to make the immigration process as easy as possible for passengers. With a Digital Travel Credential, we now have a way to make entering the country as easy as scanning your face while meeting our security needs.”

Airports in Serbia, Pakistan transitioning to digital credentials

Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, fittingly named after the famous inventor, is installing e-gates at its arrivals and departures gates, according to a post on the EX YU Aviation News blog. The two-step e-gates, which scan a traveler’s passport and match it with a photo using facial recognition, will be available by late December for passengers traveling within the EU.

Similar biometric gates are coming to three airports in Pakistan. The Khaleej Times reports that systems being installed at Islamabad, Allama Iqbal, and Jinnah International Airports will authenticate passengers using facial, fingerprint and iris scans.