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Air France trials biometric boarding cards

Fingerprints and smart cards

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Air France has started trialling RFID-equipped smartcards which store passenger fingerprints to allow automated boarding.

The card contains an encrypted version of forefinger and thumb prints. It can be used at a dedicated gate, which checks the card, compares it to the passenger's finger or thumb print and, assuming the dabs match, opens the gate.

The back of the card has flight information printed on it and can be re-used up to 500 times. This includes a barcode with all the same information as a traditional paper boarding pass. So a passenger can check in online, get to the airport and insert their card into a machine which will then be print their flight information and seat number onto the card.

The airline claims registering for a card takes only a few minutes, and that once information is transmitted to the card no files are kept elsewhere.

The trial runs until the end of the year, but only for members of AF's frequent flyer programme and only for flights between Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schipol.

Air France hopes to extend use of the card to other companies like Hertz so passengers could use the card to pick up a car key at their destination. Press release here.

The airline has recently extended use of mobile phone boarding passes to all European destinations. ®

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