Houston Hobby Airport (HOU) this week unveils facial biometric recognition technology for both arriving and departing international travelers, which the airport says will cut wait times at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection checkpoints by nearly half.
When international travelers arrive at the airport, they will pause for a photo at the primary inspection point. CBP’s biometric facial matching service will compare the new photo of the traveler to images previously provided to the government, such as passport and visa photos. If a traveler cannot be matched to a photo on record, the CBP officer will process the traveler manually.
Travelers wishing to opt out of the new biometric process may notify an officer and then will be required to present a valid travel document for manual identity verification by a CBP officer.
“The Houston Airport System enjoys a strong partnership with CPB, and we are pleased to once again be chosen to launch very important technology that will enhance the travel experience for the one million international passengers traveling through Hobby Airport,” says Mario Diaz, director of Houston Aviation. “This is an important step to realize our goal of becoming a five-star airport.”
The enhanced entry process complements the biometric exit process that CBP, Houston Airports (HAS) and Southwest Airlines introduced in November 2018. In 2017, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) become one of only three airports in the nation to deploy facial recognition technology when a pilot program for biometric exiting was launched for a daily flight operated by United Airlines from Houston to Tokyo.
The implementation of biometric facial comparison technology is a direct result of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, and it addresses Congressional mandates to biometrically record the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens.