Finnair and Finavia have piloted biometric authentication in air travel

In the future, seamless travel technology will enable people to transfer from their home to the destination without showing any ID or travel documents. The SisuID initiative aims to tackle the obstacles of trust by co-operating with authorities and businesses.

Digitalization of travel business is advancing quickly but analyzing travel data in service silos is not enough to create a seamless customer experience. There are many different service processes in the passenger’s route from home to the airplane seat: transit to the airport, parking lot payment, baggage drop, check-in, security control, lounge area access, and boarding, to name a few.

One solution would be biometric authentication. For instance, facial recognition technologies already provide a way to identify the customer without any user interaction and deliver the services seamlessly in the blink of an eye.

Finnair and Finavia have been among the first ones to test the use of biometric authentication in air travel.

Finnair and Finavia are exploring together ways to clear away the obstacles from the passenger’s service flow. That’s why they decided to partner up with the Sandbox of Trust, a digital identity pilot initiative, that aims to create a new digital identity linking and authentication solution called SisuID. It provides an app that allows all citizens who carry an authentic ID document to identify themselves in digital services. The app uses facial recognition and matches it to the document information. If the user wishes, the collected biometric data can be used for authentication. The usage is based on user consent – the user controls the information shared.

During spring 2019, Finnair and Finavia studied the possibilities of using SisuID as the enabler of next-generation passenger authentication. The group, consisting of Sandbox of Trust, Finavia and Finnair representatives, examined the concept and service design, tech and architecture, official’s requirements, privacy regulation and other possible legal barriers.

The pilot project gave excellent knowledge and insight on technical and privacy aspects of deploying biometrics and digital identity in travel. There are still some barriers to overcome before new technologies can be implemented.

First, are the privacy related open questions. How the roles in handling biometric data should be agreed between the airline, airport, border control and the other stakeholders in the travel ecosystem? These questions could be addressed and tested in practice in future pilots within the Schengen area travel ecosystem.

Also, legislation regarding facial recognition will need to be studied further. Seamless passenger journey is a vision, Finavia and Finnair will continue to investigate the opportunities of biometric authentication and digital identities.

The pilot findings are available at