Calgary airport could see self-serve border and passport kiosks

Travellers at the Calgary International Airport could soon be passing through at least two new automated machines, according to tender documents obtained by CBC News.

The procurement calls for submissions related to Automated Passport Control (APC) and Automated Border Control (ABC), among other customer care services in preparation for the opening of the new international terminal building.

The Calgary Airport Authority declined to elaborate on the plan. An official from the media relations team simply wrote in an e-mail:

“We intend to provide a great deal of information about all of these project components, at the appropriate time. This will include media briefings on the various features, combined with tours of the facility.”

Similar to self check-in

But civil engineering associate professor Alex de Barros from the University of Calgary says we can expect kiosks at border and customs control similar to the ones used at departures for self-check in.

“It’s basically a machine that reads your passport and if necessary, [it] will read your visa information as well,” said de Barros, who has worked as an airport consultant for a number of international hubs, including Toronto Pearson and Hong Kong International Airport.

“It can be done without biometric, but most likely you will need some kind of biometric at least. It could be facial recognition for example.”

De Barros says the APC kiosk would be used for pre-clearance at entry, while the ABC kiosk would be used to process customs forms.

Similar devices already exist in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, according to Daniel-Robert Gooch, president of Canadian Airports Council, a trade group that represents more than 100 airports across the country.

“The increase in use for technology to automate repetitive passenger processes at the airport is something that has been underway for quite some time,” said Gooch. “We’re quite excited about it. Automation through the use of technology is helping airports improve the experience for all travellers by making better use of resources.”

Less time waiting in line

The new system could be a win-win situation for both passengers and border security services, says de Barros.

“Because you can have more of these machines, it means you can spend less time in the line waiting for an agent,” he says. “And on the other side, there can be fewer agents. You might just need one, for example.”

De Barros says only a few airports in the world have implemented these automated services so far.

“It’s a technology mostly used in new international facilities because it’s actually tough to retrofit existing facilities,” said de Barros.

He thinks once operational, these machines could help elevate the quality of service at YYC to one of the best in the world.

“It’s not one the biggest, yet,” he said with a laugh. “Because Calgary is not that big of a hub yet. But in terms of quality of service it’s definitely going to be one of the best in the world.”

The two-million square foot international terminal building is expected to open in the fall of 2016.


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