Christmas tree at airport

The Holiday Travel Ritual Nobody Wants — Passport Delays

With millions on the move, getting home for end-of-year holidays brings passenger logjams at many border crossings. Here’s how governments can efficiently get citizens home to their families in time for the festive season.

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the world’s busiest travel period. In 2022, millions of people will travel by air, rail, road, and sea to be with their families and friends for Christmas, New Years and a host of other holidays. More than 4.7 million citizens from the UK, over 3.4 million from the US and millions more from almost every nation on the planet will form a massed rank of holiday travelers crossing international borders. However, as cheerful as the festive season is, vast numbers of people traveling in a compressed time period often means congestion at frontier crossings, resulting in long delays and deep frustration for both travelers and border officials.

Unfortunately, 2022 will not be an outlier. As the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic fade, international travel is rapidly expanding, especially during the holidays. To beat future border bottlenecks, governments must consider the causes of congestion and find ways to eliminate the issues common to passport control points across the globe.

Read on to learn more about frontier crossing problems and how governments can uncork the annual jam.

Congestion Issue 1: It Takes Time to Check Passports Manually

It may only take a few minutes to check a passport manually for identity and validity, but delays and frustration are inevitable when those checks are multiplied by tens of thousands in a short time period. This issue became most evident in the summer of 2022 when new post-Brexit passport checks at the UK seaport of Dover saw inspection times double from 45 to 90 seconds per traveler. The outcome was massive congestion, six-hour wait times and many travelers missing the cross-channel ferry they were booked on. Finding faster ways to rapidly verify that passports are genuine and valid is the only way to eliminate this problem.

Solution: HID SOMA™ and HID Mirage™ are state-of-the-art document security, safety and verification technologies. Incorporating advanced cryptographic systems and multi-layered security features, they support a wide variety of e-document programs for compliance with the highest international standards. These technologies are suitable for national eID cards, ePassports, resident permits, driving licenses, government cards and multi-application cards. They provide near-instant and accurate verification of a traveler’s credentials,  bolster document design and improve document trust. The net result is increased inspection confidence for border officials, quick identification of fake or altered documents and faster traveler processing even when the entry/exit point is operating at maximum capacity.

Congestion Issue 2: Not Enough Border Officials to Check Passports

It’s an all too familiar sight — long lines of weary travelers at airport, seaport and border-crossing posts, as too few border staff mean many passport control points are automated. A potent mix of lingering seasonal illnesses, endemic staff shortages, and ongoing industrial actions means many border staff will be away from work over the festive period. Delays are almost inevitable.

Solution: ePassports that can be read by e-Gates or any other Automated Border Control (ABC) system have been proven to speed the inspection process for low-risk travelers and reduce demand for large numbers of border personnel. Migrating or upgrading standard machine-readable travel documents to ePassports containing a chip operating system such as HID SOMA™ combines robust document security with faster passenger processing times. They typically confirm document validity, and traveler ID, and enable entry in less than 30 seconds, compared to several minutes per passenger with a standard manual check.

Congestion Issue 3: Airline Check-Ins Have Become de Facto Passport Control Points

Tightening immigration rules and increasing flight safety concerns have made airports and airline check-in desks demand more document verification than any other public-facing environment. All have the potential to be a friction point, and long lines at airline desks are common — often causing passengers to miss flights, lose luggage, and hamper what is a fragile, “just-in-time” travel system.

Solution: HID’s ADR300 ATOM Document Reader is small and versatile enough to be deployed at check-in counters and auto-kiosks, bringing with it ultra-fast scanning and a highly ergonomic design. ATOM comes with a specially designed “shark-fin” document guide to ensure perfect reads on every transaction (even at fully automated kiosks) and accelerate passenger throughput. In addition, HID’s range of boarding gate readers, such as the BGR700, feature omnidirectional face-up reading to enable operators to rapidly read barcodes and process passengers. The result is an improved passenger experience and fewer check-in bottlenecks.

Congestion Issue 4: Biometric Checks Can Falter Under Heavy Traveler Load

The era of standard fingerprint checks at many border crossings is here to stay. Unfortunately, even though fingerprint scans can achieve a high degree of accuracy and provide matching levels of confidence for border officials, sudden and heavy volumes of travelers and scanners that have issues with damaged or smeared fingerprints can turn airport and seaport arrival funnels into a passenger logjam.

Solution: For airports and seaports requiring high-volume fingerprint verification, such as for international travelers entering the United States, HID continues to set the global standard for high-quality capture and reliable print-matching performance to enhance border security. HID fingerprint scanners with visual user guidance quickly capture fingerprints (whether dry, wet, oily, damaged, aged, or dirty), making them an excellent choice for airport and seaport subjects. Advanced presentation attack detection (PAD), readers such as HID’s Guardian 200 quickly determine whether a presented fingerprint is genuine, reducing wasted time for border officials and moving legitimate passengers safely on their journey.

Technology That Solves Border Control Bottlenecks Is the Best Gift for Holiday Travelers

Congestion at the border during the holiday season doesn’t have to be part of the annual tradition. HID document verification and validation technology can lubricate the sticking points to eliminate long lines of passengers, enhance document credibility, ensure maximum security, and make international travel a pleasant and seamless experience at Christmas, New Year, or any time of year.

Learn more about HID’s advanced identity inspection systems or how to best benefit from an ePassport system.