Video: CATSA’s future vision for airport security


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Kevin McGarr, President & CEO, CATSA, discusses the role of biometrics in airport security and the viability of an international trusted traveller programme.

In order to enhance the security process in airports across Canada, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has continually shown a willingness to embrace innovation, ranging from the adoption of biometric technology, to the introduction of trusted traveller lanes for members of the NEXUS programme. Furthermore, ‘family’ and ‘special need’ lanes are also in place across Canada’s airports to increase the efficiency of the airport experience as far as possible.

According to Kevin McGarr, this “differentiation of passengers and requirements at security checkpoints” has enabled CATSA to speed up the processing of passengers without impacting on the level of security.

The specific lanes, he added, allow CATSA to “process the rest of the passengers in a much more orderly manner and allow for a better customer experience”.

Biometric technology has been used by CATSA since 2003, when Restricted Area Identification Cards were introduced, making use of iris and fingerprint recognition technology, thus granting access to members of staff to restricted areas of the airport.

However, McGarr explained that there is further potential for biometrics to be used to enhance the passenger experience. “There is potential for it, but a lot is going to depend on how the regulatory authorities accept some of the security potential that biometrics can offer,” he said. He also explained that CATSA is exploring the use of biometric technology within the NEXUS programme to increase the efficiency of the processing of passengers.

Global trusted traveller programme

While various trusted traveller programmes are currently in place outside of Canada – including in the likes of the US, The Netherlands, Germany and Korea – expanding these programmes to create a widespread international programme has also been highlighted as a potential way to enhance the airport experience for frequent flyers in particular.

“I think it is feasible,” McGarr stated. “The technology certainly exists. What is required is that international standards have to be developed and the regulatory authorities have to harmonise the requirements for admission to the programme and maintaining the membership in the programme that would be mutually recognised by like-minded countries.”

So, while biometric technology and trusted traveller programmes are proven methods of expediting and improving the airport security process, close collaboration between airport operators and governmental and regulatory authorities will be vital to further exploit the potential that exists.