SINGAPORE: From 2024, automated immigration clearance will be introduced at Changi Airport, letting passengers travel from Singapore without needing a passport. Biometric data will be used instead as part of the changes planned to Singapore’s Immigration Act.
Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said in Parliament on Monday (Sept 18) that biometrics will be used for authentication starting from the first half of next year. These include a number of automated steps for departure, such as the bag drop, immigration, and boarding.
“Singapore will be one of the first few countries in the world to introduce automated, passport-free immigration clearance,” she said, adding, “This will reduce the need for passengers to repeatedly present their travel documents at these touchpoints, allowing for more seamless and convenient processing.”
At automated lanes at immigration checkpoints at Changi Airport, some of the technology is already in place, including facial recognition software.
But the changes will ensure a “single token of authentication,” eliminating the need for passports and boarding passes.
However, the minister emphasized that passports will still be needed as many countries besides Singapore do not yet offer passport-free clearance.
Travel has bounced back in Singapore at nearly pre-pandemic levels; the country needs to be prepared for a steady and growing influx of passengers in one of the busiest, best-rated airports around the globe.
Ms Teo also noted that Singapore’s “must be able to manage this high and growing volume of travelers efficiently and provide a positive clearance experience while ensuring our security.”
In June, Changi Airport surpassed the five million mark for the first time since the pandemic began in January 2020, handling 5.12 million travellers.
Elsewhere in the world, biometrics are also being used instead of passports, which could mean this is the direction travel is headed.
Dubai International Airport began using biometric “Smart Gates” tunnels in 2018, allowing passengers to use facial scans or fingerprints instead of passports.
Hong Kong International Airport, Tokyo Narita, Tokyo Haneda, Indira Gandhi International in Delhi, London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle also use similar technology.
The technology is also being tested out in the United States for check-in, bag drops and other airport processes at a number of airports.
“COVID-19 changed many facets of the travel experience, but the reduction of touchpoints in airlines and airports became a particular focus. Biometric scanners at airports quickly became a way to create a more hygienic, contactless passenger experience. By using biometric validation at check-in, airlines and airports could facilitate contactless boarding at a time when close proximity was unwelcome,” reads one article on the future of travel./TISG