How Dubai airport's new facial-recognition smart gates work

Passengers registered under new system no longer need to show passport or boarding pass

Over the past six months, 154,000 travellers have used Dubai International Airport’s new biometric system, which eliminates the need for identification documents at different points in the airport.

The fast-track “biometric passenger journey” uses face and iris-recognition technology to let travellers complete passport control procedures in as little as five seconds.

The new contactless system, launched by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in September, has been installed at 122 smart gates in the arrivals and departures halls.

Eight Emirates airline check-in desks have also been fitted with biometric cameras.

As part of the introduction, passengers registered under the new system no longer need to show their passport or boarding pass, from check-in to boarding the plane.

"Any passenger who wants to use the new, seamless smart travel service needs to pre-register their details first," said Noora Al Mazrouie, director of Future Border Department at the directorate.

“First of all, the passenger will have to approach the Emirates check-in counter and register his or her biometrics and facial data at that touch point.

“Then he will get a boarding pass that specifies either smart tunnel or smart gate, so he knows which point to pass through when going through immigration.

“For example, at the smart gate, the passenger will enter the gate and it will verify his biometric passport through a camera.

"The gate will open within seconds without using any documents.”

The same process is used at the boarding gate and when checking in to the Emirates’ business and first-class lounges.

Maj Gen Mohammed Al Marri, director general of directorate, said the time it took to pass through each point depended on the movement of the passenger.

"We are always trying to reduce the wait time between each check point in the airport," Maj Gen Al Marri told The National.

“We run on seconds, not minutes. Now, if the passenger stands in front of the camera, stays still and looks where he is supposed to, five seconds is more than enough to complete the procedure.

“Our customers are very important and we want them to walk away with the feeling that Dubai airport was the best airport they travelled through.

"The journey has to be smooth, quick and stress-free.”

How to use the new biometric service?

  • Passengers passing though the smart gates must lower their masks, glasses and hats and look at the camera, keeping as still as possible.
  • The biometric data of the passenger will be scanned and when the green light appears the gate will open and the traveller can pass through.
  • If the smart gate does not recognise the passenger immediately, a message will appear, telling them to go back and try again
  • Support staff are positioned near all gates to guide the passengers on how to use the service.

Who can use the service?

  • Emiratis
  • GCC nationals
  • Residents of the UAE
  • Foreign visitors who get visa on arrival or come with a pre-issued visa
  • Children aged 15 and above
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