Genève Aéroport tests automated border control


05.12.2019

From Thursday 5 December, the airport will be testing machines that can check passenger identity papers. This pilot project will save travellers’ time while maintaining a high level of safety.

As of today, two automated passport control gates are being tested at Genève Aéroport Arrivals, in collaboration with the Federal Customs Administration. Scheduled to last one year, this pilot project enables passengers to cross the border independently and more quickly while ensuring border guards maintain effective controls even at busy times.

The system works as follows. The passenger places their passport on the reader of an automated gate and enters a secure area where a camera performs facial recognition. Meanwhile, the system scans research databases and national and international information systems. If everything is in order, the gate opens. The whole process lasts twelve to fourteen seconds. If an anomaly is detected, a border guard is mobilised. The data recorded is systematically erased once the check is complete.

« The main objective of this project of the Federal Customs Administration is to save travellers' time while maintaining a high level of security, » said airport operations expert Jacques Morgenegg. In fact, physical checks at the desk require more staff and may cause longer waiting times, especially during peak periods.

The use of these devices is voluntary. All Swiss citizens and nationals of the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) holding a biometric or electronic passport over the age of eighteen may use these gates. Other passengers must go to the usual desks. 

Automated gates are already operational in many countries, such as Germany, France and Belgium. In Switzerland, they were introduced at Zurich Airport in 2017. At Genève Aéroport, the pilot project will last about a year. Thirteen automated gates (8 at Arrivals and 5 at Departures) will then be installed in the future East Wing, dedicated to boarding and landing non-Schengen and long-haul intercontinental flights. Currently under construction, this space will open in December 2020.

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