Pearson Airport and Air Canada are leading the way in the adoption of artificial intelligence to enhance the travel experience of passengers, from speeding up boarding to improving security checks.
The two Canadian entities have implemented different AI-based technologies, with Air Canada using facial recognition to accelerate the boarding process, while Pearson Airport uses AI in airport security to detect potentially dangerous or prohibited items.
The airport conducted a pilot project of its HEXWAVE AI technology in late 2022, and recently signed a letter of intent to buy the technology from Liberty Defense, the company behind it. Pearson Airport has tested the system in multiple locations and with about 1,000 participants.
The AI system enhances security and aims to reduce waiting times for passengers. According to Liberty Defense, the system allows for rapid, automated screening using a high-throughput, contactless walkthrough portal. However, the device will continue to be trialed in other areas to evaluate its potential application.
Air Canada’s facial recognition technology is being piloted at Pearson Airport and Vancouver International Airport, where passengers can walk through a set of gates that identify them using AI technology during boarding or when entering airport lounges. The technology is optional, and passengers can still present their ID and scan their boarding pass in the traditional way.
To use the system, passengers first need to create a digital profile through the Air Canada app, scan the appropriate documents, and upload a selfie. This technology has the potential to validate customer identification quickly, securely, and accurately at select airport touchpoints.
While the AI system is seen as a way to speed up boarding and enhance security, some passengers remain skeptical. The airline’s announcement of the technology on Twitter was met with some skepticism, with passengers questioning whether the use of AI was mandatory. However, the system is entirely optional, and passengers can choose to use it or not.
Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has expressed support for the technology, saying it has “great potential in making gate boarding easier and faster.” While Air Canada plans to expand the technology to other Canadian airports and airport lounges during its pilot project, the GTAA spokesperson confirmed that the airport is not currently considering the use of facial recognition technology in its security operations.
Air Canada is the largest airline in Canada, with a fleet size and passenger volume that surpasses all other airlines in the country. Since its inception in 1937 as Trans-Canada Airlines, Air Canada has grown to become a major player in the global aviation industry, operating flights to over 200 destinations worldwide. As a member of the Star Alliance, Air Canada offers its passengers access to an extensive network of airlines. The airline has received recognition for its commitment to service, winning awards such as Best Airline in North America at the 2020 Skytrax World Airline Awards. Air Canada has also demonstrated a strong commitment to Canadian communities through charitable initiatives, cultural event sponsorships, and support for Canadian athletes.
Both Pearson Airport and Air Canada’s AI initiatives are still in the early stages, and they continue to explore the potential of AI to improve the passenger experience. The use of AI is likely to increase across the aviation industry as airports and airlines explore new ways to enhance security and efficiency while reducing waiting times for passengers.