London Heathrow Airport: Automated border clearance

e-Passport gates use biometrics to speed up travelers’ experience.


With growth in world air travel averaging 5 percent per year over the past 30 years, the airline industry is aware more than most of the need to innovate to keep pace with change.

For London Heathrow Airport, which handles the greatest number of international passengers in the world, there was a need to expedite the movement of an increasing number of passengers in the context of finite resources and Accenture was chosen to help.

Leading airport company BAA is involved in almost every aspect of the day-to-day running of six United Kingdom airports and a number of overseas airports.

With a remit to work closely with travelers to give them an enjoyable passenger experience, BAA approached Accenture to undertake a trial to prove a secure, streamlined and workable business process for automated border crossing, before planning to implement the solution more broadly.


Working with BAA, Accenture introduced banks of automated e-Passport gates at Heathrow Terminals 1, 4 and 5. These are being used in this busy airport by European Union passengers who are over the age of 18 and own an e-Passport—a combined paper and electronic passport containing biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of the traveler.

Each traveler places their e-Passport photo page in a passport reader and a screen guides the traveler through the process of passport authorization. Each passport undergoes visual and electronic security checks to verify its authenticity and the absence of tampering. The system captures and reads the passport while unlocking and reading its embedded biometric chip. Simultaneously, using an animated guide increases the passenger experience and greater efficiency for airport operators.


Combining people, processes and technology, Accenture helps define strategies for effective and secure border solutions, improve business processes, determine effective workforce reorganization or training and change management.

Accenture has an extensive team of more than 1,000 professionals dedicated to border management and public safety. We partner with organizations such as US–VISIT, BAA and the UK Border Agency to go beyond their existing capabilities and harness new technologies in innovative ways.