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Frankfurt Airport, one of Europe’s busiest hubs, has limited space to expand the physical footprint of the airport to accommodate a growing number of passengers. At the same time, passengers increasingly want a digital travel experience that can be managed from their mobile devices, giving them more control at every step. And most importantly, airport operator Fraport is focused on delivering a customer experience that is seamless and easy. The nexus of these challenges lies in the digitalization of the passenger journey. 

The Challenge

The Challenge

With passenger numbers growing rapidly, Fraport needs a digital solution that would improve the throughput of passengers and elevate the customer experience.

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The Solution

The Solution

SITA’s Smart Path biometric solution has allowed Frankfurt Airport to deploy facial recognition technology at every step along the journey, from check-in to pre-security identity control and boarding.

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The Benefits and Results

The Benefits and Results

The new technology has sped up passenger processing time at Frankfurt Airport by 30%.

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As an airport, the investment (in Smart Path) is not financial, it is the customer experience. The passenger approaches an eGate. The flip gates open and the customer goes through and he’s like: ‘Wow, it’s magic.’ And that is the thing you can’t measure with money. It is the customer experience.

Jens Sanner, Program Director, Biometrics at Fraport

The Airport

Frankfurt Airport is an international hub strategically located in the heart of Europe at the junction of vital intermodal road, rail, and air networks. It ranks as Europe’s fifth busiest airport by passenger volume and first for cargo. As it recovers to pre-pandemic traffic levels, the airport welcomed 44.5 million passengers from January to September 2023, reaching 82% of 2019 levels, when it welcomed more than 70.5 million passengers and handled 2.1 million metric tons of cargo.

The Challenge

With large volumes of passengers transiting through the airport every day, Fraport has to manage potential bottlenecks at various points in the passenger journey to avoid delays and impacting the passenger experience. Frankfurt Airport needed quick and seamless touchpoints – from check-in to boarding – to maintain a steady and smooth flow of passengers. 

With limited space available, expanding the physical footprint was not an option. The airport also needed this solution to be scalable as it anticipates continued growth in passenger traffic.

Fraport was also clear that they wanted a common-use solution. “Frankfurt serves more than 90 airlines. We can’t provide one solution for one airline and something else for another. It makes no sense. That was the task given in 2019 by our executive team: go common use,” says Jen Sanner, Program Director, Biometrics at Fraport. 

On top of the list of requirements was the customer experience. It needed to be digital, fast and highly efficient.

The Solution

Using SITA’s Smart Path biometric solution, Fraport is enabling all airlines at Frankfurt Airport to jointly use face biometrics as identification from check-in to boarding the aircraft. It is the first airport in Europe to offer biometric touchpoints to all airline passengers, enabling streamlined, frictionless passage throughout the airport.

SITA’s Smart Path biometric solution has allowed Frankfurt Airport to deploy facial recognition technology at every step along the journey. SITA’s biometric solution leverages the NEC I:Delight digital identity management platform, ranked the world’s most accurate face recognition technology in vendor tests conducted by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This means passengers who have opted to use the service can be identified accurately in a matter of seconds, even on the move.

With Smart Path, your face becomes your boarding pass. Passengers can securely register in advance on their mobile device through the Star Alliance biometric app or directly at the check-in kiosk with their biometric-enabled passports. The whole registration process only takes a few seconds. Once registered, passengers pass through the facial recognition-equipped checkpoints without showing any physical documents. 

Importantly, Smart Path meets the common-use requirement, allowing new airlines to integrate their systems with the biometrics solution quickly. 

For Fraport, it had an added advantage. As it looks to the future, Smart Path will be key to enabling the use of new government-issued or airline digital identities. “The game changer of digital travel credentials will not work without biometrics,” says Sanner. 

Product Overview

SITA Smart Path: The leading end-to-end self-service biometric passenger processing solution

  • Future-proof system: Designed with interoperability and intermodal travel in mind, SITA Smart Path enables you and your stakeholders to explore opportunities for new service offerings
  • Innovative and compliant: As members of working groups on IATA One ID and the European Digital Identity (EUDI) wallet, our innovative biometric solutions are always compliant with the latest standards
  • Simple and secure: Whether used as an overlay to leverage existing infrastructure or as a completely new cloud solution, security is a priority
  • Right-sized solution: Add value to your airport operations by deploying a comprehensive solution, or by adding touchpoints according to your budget and timeframe
  • Excellent support: With our extensive aviation history and infrastructure, and our partnership with facial recognition technology expert and innovator NEC, you can be confident of our support when you need us

The Benefits and Results

“With biometrics we can increase the throughput at various touchpoints by 30%. That’s a number you can achieve within the current (footprint of the airport), without pouring concrete, without rebuilding anything. You just add a biometric facepod to the touchpoint. That is really good,” says Sanner. 

It also meets the common-use requirement that Fraport management was looking for. SITA’s common-use solution allows all airlines to use the same infrastructure, from the check-in kiosk to the gates at boarding. 

But more than that, passengers have more control over the journey through the airport with fewer queues at each touchpoint.