Look straight ahead before boarding

Top News | Charlotte Luo 11 Jan 2019

Facial recognition technology will be used at future e-boarding gates at Hong Kong International Airport so that passengers can board planes without having to go through manual checks.

This is part of a HK$9 billion renovation of Terminal 1, to be completed by 2021.

An extra HK$2 billion was added to the HK$7 billion investment announced last year which is funded by the Airport Authority.

With the new e-boarding gates, passengers will be able to pass checks just by showing their face, without the need of staff to manually check their passports or boarding passes again.

But it will be up to airlines to make the final decision on whether to deploy the technology.

Chapman Fong Shui-man, general manager of Terminal 1, said four biometric gates supporting facial recognition will be installed at each boarding gate, plus a traditional checking counter.

Boarding time will be shortened as there will be five channels instead of the usual two.

"In the long term, we hope there will be a single approach to face recognition whereby passengers can register once with the face used as a key through different procedures," Fong said.

Four electronic gates with facial recognition have been in use outside restricted areas since September. The airport will gradually add 40 more by the first quarter this year.

Passengers can scan their travel documents and boarding passes, then look at a camera to have their face verified. The system will automatically match the passenger's face with the photo in the travel document, which will take about 20 seconds per person.

Passengers do not need to remove their glasses for facial recognition.

The renovation plan also includes changing the numbering of gates, setting up family-friendly zones in departure waiting areas and renovating more than 100 toilets.

Fong said there will be 12 zones of three themes across the passenger concourse, offering entertainment facilities and family corners. There will also be new seating for passengers to work or rest.

The number of seats in dining areas will increase to 1,200 from the current 900 and there will be nine restaurants, up from the current six.

A 200-meter-long weatherproof footbridge, called The Sky Bridge, is under construction and will connect Terminal 1 and North Satellite Concourse by 2020. This will lead to renumbering of the boarding gates and parking stands.

The first phase of renumbering will start on March 28 in the boarding areas closest to the main security clearance area. Boarding gates 15 to 22 will change to numbers 5 to 12, for example.

The second phase will follow the completion of the footbridge. This time boarding gates 501 to 510 in North Satellite Concourse will be renumbered as 13 to 22.

The skybridge is 28 meters above the ground, allowing an Airbus A380 - one of the world's largest passenger planes - to pass underneath. It will reduce travel time and the need to use shuttle buses to commute between Terminal 1 and North Satellite Concourse.

Fong said the boarding gates and parking stands at Terminal 1 are numbered, with the lower numbers closest to the entrances of the restricted area, so the renumbering will follow the same logic.

Notices and new signs will be used to show directions and there will be extra staff to guide passengers.

Hong Kong International Airport serviced more than 74 million passengers last year.

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