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Facial recognition system allowing smooth boarding to start July at Narita, Haneda airports

Check-in kiosks designated for passengers using Face Express, a check-in procedure using facial recognition technology, are seen at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture on March 25, 2021. (Mainichi/Tadakazu Nakamura)

NARITA -- Check-in procedures using facial recognition technology are set to start in July at two major airports in Japan, allowing passengers to pass through security to their boarding gate without showing their passports or plane tickets.

    Under the new system "Face Express," to be launched at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and Haneda Airport in the capital, once passengers present their passport and boarding pass, and register an image of their face at check-in, facial recognition technology will be used after that point to automatically verify the identity of passengers as they walk through their boarding gate.

    Cameras set up at security check points, boarding gates and other areas will detect passengers' faces and determine whether they are the same as those registered at check-in. The system's implementation will help shorten the time required prior to boarding, and enable a smooth and contactless process which will prevent coronavirus infections.

    The two airports announced the launch of the system on March 25. At Narita Airport, construction work could not be moved forward as technicians were unable to come to Japan due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the implementation of the Face Express check-in system will take place one year later than originally scheduled.

    Following the system's implementation, Narita Airport will have passengers remove their masks in front of cameras. Narita International Airport Corp. President Akihiko Tamura said in a regular press conference, "I've heard from the maker that technologically, it can conduct considerably high-performance verifications even when people have masks on. But for the time being, we'll have passengers remove their masks in order to take precautions."

    A test run of the system will begin on April 13. At Narita Airport, All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) will participate in the program, while it will be expanded to other airlines moving forward. At Haneda Airport, airlines operating international flights will be subject to the new system. The airports aim for full-scale operation of the Face Express system in time for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

    (Japanese original by Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)

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