Alaska Airlines to consider using fingerprints to screen passengers

Security experts have long predicted that airlines in the future will rely on biometrics — fingerprints or retina scans — to verify the identity of air travelers.

That has not happened yet, but Seattle-based Alaska Airlines began in August to use fingerprint scans to screen fliers at the airline’s four airport lounges, including one at Los Angeles International Airport.

After further testing, Alaska officials say they may expand the fingerprint screening to the ticket gate to identify passengers before they board planes.

Jerry Tolzman, manager of customer research and development for the airline, said passenger surveys show that travelers like using fingerprints to get access to the lounges.

“Customers who have tried it really like it,” he said. “You don’t have to carry a boarding pass or some other form of identification. It’s just one less thing to worry about.”


Expanding the fingerprint screening to gates and ticket counters may be more complicated because it will involve coordinating with the Transportation Security Administration, Tolzman said.

Alaska Airline travelers who want to use the fingerprint scanners must first register their prints at the lounges, Tolzman said.

The program began with the lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in August and was expanded to the lounges at LAX, Portland (Oregon) International and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in September.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.