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Heathrow to check fingerprints

London Telegraph | July 21, 2007
Larry Greenley

Fingerprinting of passengers, a process that has irritated many visitors to the United States, will soon be happening on some domestic flights within Britain.

Domestic passengers departing from Heathrow's Terminal 5, which opens in March, will have to give a fingerprint and have their faces scanned as part of a security check before take-off. The checks are being brought in because both domestic and international passengers will share a common departure lounge and there are fears that those arriving on international flights may be able to bypass immigration control by booking an onward domestic flight to a regional airport.

International passengers departing through Terminal 5 will be subject to the normal checks and controls but will not undergo face scans or have to provide a fingerprint. At Gatwick, which also has a shared departure lounge for all passengers, domestic travellers already have their photographs taken.

A spokeswoman for Terminal 5 said the new fingerprinting systems were a way of taking security to the next level. "At the moment there are no plans for any other passengers to be fingerprinted, but it is the way of the future. We work closely with the Home Office on security issues," she said.

From this autumn, those arriving at 10 US airports, including New York JFK, Chicago, Miami and Boston, will have to give fingerprints of all 10 fingers, raising fears of increased delays.

Bob Mocny, the acting director of the US-Visit Programme, which runs immigration security, said the new technology would improve safety and, eventually, be a fast system. He said the same system would be introduced across Europe in the future. However, the Home Office said this week that it has no plans to insist on fingerprints for incoming passengers.

"We take fingerprints across 80 different countries from people when they apply for visas and have stopped 4,000 people from coming in," said a spokeswoman.

Recent improvements in security at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted include the introduction of flat scanners that can read the new biometric indicators in e-passports. Extra checks on passengers have been introduced following the recent attempted terrorist attacks at airports, leading to fears of increased delays for passengers this summer.

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