The airline industry is pushing for new technology and initiatives to streamline border processing for passengers, with trials underway at some airports.

Airport passenger flow rates will need to increase significantly to cope with forecast growth in air travel, IATA director of airports and fuel Hemant Mistry said in a briefing at the IATA AGM in Sydney June 5. This means improving visa processes and making passenger identity checks more efficient through data sharing and other methods.

IATA has developed a New Experience Travel Technologies (NEXTT) initiative, which also involves the Airports Council International. One goal is to encourage off-airport passenger processing, for example at a downtown check-in site remote from the airport. The program is looking at “how much [passenger] processing could be done before they get to the airport itself,” Mistry said. This could involve starting the process from home or during the journey to the airport.

At the airport, NEXTT will address how advanced processing could make passenger and baggage clearance “simpler, quicker, and more coordinated,” according to IATA. Another element is the creation of a “data backbone” to facilitate sharing of identity and other information. This could reduce the need for the same information to be presented multiple times.

Airports involved in NEXTT include Shenzhen in China, London Heathrow, Bangalore, Dubai and Amsterdam.

Another initiative, known as One ID, would introduce a single form of identity check that could be used in all steps at the airport and throughout a passenger journey, eliminating duplicative and repetitive steps. An “end-to-end” trial of such a concept is being conducted between Dubai and London Gatwick airports, Mistry said.

IATA is also advocating reforms regarding travel visa restrictions and issuance. Mistry noted that about two-thirds of the world’s population need to obtain traditional visas before travel. “Existing visa regimes are overly restrictive, expensive and inefficient, and will be unable to cope with forecast travel demand,” according to an IATA presentation.

As part of IATA’s open borders strategy, the group is urging states “to reconsider visa regimes and remove unnecessary travel restrictions.” Travel facilitation should be included as part of bilateral and regional trade negotiations, IATA said. However, visa reform is “by no means an easy task,” Mistry said. Improvement “requires significant advocacy with states.”

Another element of the open borders strategy encourages countries to link their trusted-traveler programs. This does occur in certain places, but these are rare cases, IATA said. The group also wants advance passenger information to be handled more efficiently by governments, so inadmissible passengers can be notified before travel.

Adrian Schofield, avweekscho@gmail.com