The Japanese government has introduced a new departure tax on passengers leaving the country by sea or air, with the proceeds to be used to fund the facial recognition systems in place at airports. The 1,000-yen tax will be charged on plane and ship tickets, and will affect both Japanese and foreigners over two years old or those who are in transit with stays exceeding 24 hours. The government expects to collect around 50 billion yen this year with the tax. It is the first tax to be introduced in the country in 27 years and is labelled as assisting tourists. The money collected will be allocated for facial recognition systems at airports that have been touted as expediting immigration procedures and providing greater assistance in foreign languages for those who visit the country.
Passengers checking into flights at Shanghai's Hongqiao International Airport can now use their face to prove their identity thanks to the rollout of facial recognition technology. The airport this week unveiled self-service kiosks for flight and baggage check-in, security clearance, and boarding powered by facial recognition technology. While many airports in China already use facial recognition to help speed up security checks, Shanghai's system is being billed as the first to be fully automated. "It is the first time in China to achieve self-service for the whole check-in process," said Zhang Zheng, general manager of the ground services department for Spring Airlines, the first airline to adopt the system at Hongqiao Airport. Currently, only Chinese identity cardholders can use the technology.
The federal government has announced the next phase of its airport automation plan, with international travellers departing Australia now able to check-in via smartphone. The initiative, available from Monday, will see airlines issue electronic boarding passes for international flights. Travellers using the digital option won't need to visit the check-in desk to show their passport, and they will be able to show their boarding pass on a mobile device instead of using a paper boarding pass, still following the normal border clearance path at the airport. "Last financial year more than 21.4 million travellers were cleared through the border departing Australian international airports. This number will continue to rise," Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge said in a statement.
Some passengers travelling internationally via Qantas will be trialling biometric technology at Sydney Airport, with the first stage using facial recognition for them to complete automated flight check-in and bag drop, gain access to the lounge, and board the plane itself. Additional steps proposed for future trials include mobile check-in and automated border processing, allowing passengers to use their face as their access identification. As the launch partner for the trial, Qantas worked with the airport "from the outset", with Qantas chief customer officer Vanessa Hudson noting the airline is focused on increasing the use of technology to drive innovation for customers. "There is an increasing need for airlines and airports to offer faster and more convenient airport experiences and we're excited to see what results the trial produces," she added. Sydney Airport said consent is actively sought from all passengers and the "strictest level of privacy" is adhered to on behalf of those participating in the trial.
One of the technologies we are seeing being trialled and deployed in airports is robotic assistants. The humanoid robots are positioned around the airport terminal assisting passengers with queries and information. By making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, the robots can process large amounts of data, with real-time updates to enable them to provide the latest information to passengers. This technology is starting to be used in some select airports but for different functions. Munich Airport in Germany is using robotic assistants primarily for information.