Security card aims to speed up airport checks

Airlines are demanding more security checks before letting passengers board aircraft.

A new system aimed at improving security and cutting passenger waiting time at airports is set to be introduced at Zurich airport in December.

This content was published on November 11, 2004 - 13:16

Swissport’s Secure Check will be tested on selected flights before being launched worldwide.

The system assembles biometric data, including a passenger’s fingerprints and a photograph, as well as a scan of passport information during the check-in procedure at the airport.

These elements are then recorded on a special security card that the passenger can present at various checkpoints if required.

“More and more airlines are demanding extra checks of passenger details before they let people embark on their aircraft,” Swissport’s Stephan Beerli told swissinfo.

Airlines face heavy penalties if they transport passengers who do not have the right travel documents. “The companies want ground staff to make these extra checks,” added Beerli.


Swissport’s system simplifies the procedure by gathering all passenger details up front. Travellers have only to give their fingerprints at the gate to confirm the details encrypted on the card.

Swissport hopes that the data it records will eventually also be used when passengers disembark at their destination.

“This will require a lot of preparation and work, especially with immigration services, before it can be implemented,” Beerli warned.

Secure Check does not eliminate the need for border or customs controls. Passengers will still have to present their passports and hand luggage after checking in.

And the system puts an added burden on ground staff, whose duties will be increased. Employees on check-in duty will have to carry out the identification procedure as well as check the passenger’s travel documents.

Data protection

But Swissport says regular travellers will benefit from the new procedure.

While recording a passenger’s biometric data for the first time will take a little longer than today’s check-in procedure, there will be less work involved once a passenger has a security card.

“The smart card belongs to the passenger along with all the data held on it,” added Beerli. “The information collected is only kept on the card, so there are no concerns about data protection.”

Yet the Secure Card is not totally immune to problems. A computer failure could disable the processing of biometric data such as fingerprints.

“This is one of the aspects we will be testing during the pilot phase,” said Beerli. “But even if we do have a breakdown, we can still process passengers.”

swissinfo, Scott Capper

Key facts

Swissport’s ground handling services employ 22,000 people at 170 airports in 34 countries.
The company deals with 70 million passengers on behalf of 600 clients annually.

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In brief

Secure Check will be tested at Zurich airport from December on some flights by the national carrier, Swiss.

Passports are scanned during check-in and passengers’ biometric data is recorded. A smart card is issued.

The traveller can confirm his or her status at the flight gate with a fingerprint check that is compared with the data on the card.

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In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

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