London, Mar.8 : Millions of British airline passengers will face mandatory fingerprinting before being allowed to board flights when Heathrow's Terminal 5 opens later this month. According to the Telegraph, for the first time at any airport, the biometric checks will apply to all domestic passengers leaving the terminal, which will handle all British Airways flights to and from Heathrow. The controversial security measure is also set to be introduced at Gatwick, Manchester and Heathrow's Terminal 1, and many airline industry insiders believe fingerprinting could become universal at all UK airports within a few years.
All four million domestic passengers who will pass through Terminal 5 annually after it opens on March 27 will have four fingerprints taken, as well as being photographed, when they check in.
To ensure the passenger boarding the aircraft is the same person, the fingerprinting process will be repeated just before they board the aircraft and the photograph will be compared with their face.
BAA, the company that owns Heathrow, insists the biometric information will be destroyed after 24 hours and will not be passed on to the police.
The company said the move had been necessitated by the design of Terminal 5, where international and domestic passengers share the same lounges and public areas after they have checked in.
Without the biometric checks, the company says, potential criminals and illegal immigrants arriving on international flights or in transit to another country could bypass border controls by swapping boarding passes with a domestic passenger who has already checked in.
They could then board the domestic flight, where proof of identity is not currently required, fly on to another UK airport and leave without having to go through passport control.
Most other airports avoid the problem by keeping international and domestic passengers separate at all times, but the mixed lounges exist at Gatwick, Manchester and Heathrow's Terminal 1.
Gatwick and Manchester currently deal with the problem by photographing all passengers as they pass through security, and checking the picture against their face at the departure gate.
Civil liberties campaigners have raised concerns about the possibility of security agencies trying to access the treasure trove of personal data in the future, adding that fingerprinting "will make innocent people feel like criminals".
Although fingerprinting is carried out at some foreign airports - most notably in the US - as part of immigration checks for international arrivals, Heathrow will be the first to fingerprint domestic passengers before they board their flights.