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Travel safe! just got a whole new meaning with multifactor authentication

Jérôme Bousrez

Director, Reservation, Amadeus

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Flying first class, low cost, long haul; with extra leg space, seat selection or even a vegan menu. Nowadays there is a myriad of options available for travelers to choose from, but whether you go for the most luxurious experience or the most frugal, all journeys still have something in common: a travel record.

This Passenger Name Record (PNR) or Travel Order contains the itinerary for a passenger, or a group of passengers travelling together. It includes information on the journey (flights, accommodation and transfer services…), as well as the passenger’s personal details (including passport, meal preferences, encrypted information about payments …) and travel specific data like ticket number. 

All this information provides airlines, travel agents, airports and even customs agencies with unified and updated information about the travel so they can facilitate it accordingly. They are partners and need frictionless interoperations. The travel industry has defined standards to streamline data exchanges between these actors, so that the traveler doesn’t have to provide the same information to each travel provider each and every time it is needed, saving time and money. 

Changing perceptions

It is also important to understand that it was designed to be shared by experts and professional systems that are reliable, known and trusted. But, in reality, reservations are also accessed via websites. And we also need to continuously ensure that unwanted players never access these records. As with any other industry, balancing comfort/ease and security can be challenging. We all want to travel as easily as possible, with few touch points, but making sure at the same time that our data is protected. This is an industry-wide topic that all players are very conscious of and focused on. All parties involved need to come together and work on either enhancing the current standard or replacing it for something different. 

Today, the authentication is often simple and based on the PNR 6 characters record id and on the traveler name. That’s why we do not recommend sharing pictures or mail of your booking confirmation or boarding pass. 

Amadeus is looking at options to strengthen passenger identification. One such option could be biometric identification. This could help not only to improve security when retrieving travel information (through facial recognition on your phone, for example) but also increasing efficiency when boarding planes, thus reducing queues and freeing airport staff.  Amadeus is already working on this. Earlier this year, we ran a successful pilot at Ljubljana Airport (Slovenia).Working with Adria Airways, the airport’s home carrier, and LOT Polish Airlines, 175 participating passengers were successfully boarded in record time. 

The pilot saw passengers enroll using an Amadeus smartphone app that captured a ‘selfie’ alongside their passport photo and boarding pass, which were all stored securely on a remote server. A photo of the passenger was then captured at the boarding gate and matched against those stored on the server to validate the passenger’s identity and flight status. Upon successful matching a message was conveyed to the Departure Control System and the passenger was able to board smoothly. 

This is another step towards the creation of a common, centralized industry platform for biometrics which could also contribute to increasing security for travel records. 

Inspiration (and solutions) are in front of us

We don’t know how long it would take for biometrics to become the new normal for the travel industry. Amadeus is working on a new traveler identification solution which address traveler and airlines’ security concern, based on Multifactor Authentication System (MFA). 

This new authentication solution will work similarly to other identification systems used in other industries such as banking or communications, which means individuals will be more familiar with the functioning, ensuring an easy and seamless adoption. 

Our MFA system will offer travelers, through our digital solutions, the option of having strong and secure booking access. If the traveler opts-in for it, they will receive SMS or notifications asking them to confirm their identity each time they access their booking. This simple step, fast confirmation of your identity in your personal smartphone, will help to prevent unwanted access without making the whole process too cumbersome. 

The industry has evolved over the years to make travel easy, accessible and enjoyable. We are adding a new security layer, but the spirit remains the same: travelers will continue to have a great experience, only one which is increasingly more secure. 


Dieser Artikel ist auch in den folgenden Sprachen verfügbar: Englisch

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