Aruba Airport is the NEXTT big thing for IATA and ACI

The Aruba Happy Flow is the first 100 per cent self-service passenger experience, based on traveller-centric biometric technology, from kerb to boarding. It was developed by three operational partners; The Government of Aruba, Aruba Airport Authority and KLM, in cooperation with developing partners Vision-Box, Schiphol Group and the Dutch Government, Annet Steenbergen takes us through the key aspects.


How does Aruba Happy Flow realise NEXTT’s vision for a walking pace passenger journey? 

Aruba Happy Flow is a true seamless passenger facilitation; after enrolment passengers only need their biometrics (face) to pass bag drop, border control and boarding. The Happy Flow has last year introduced walking pace capture of biometrics at bag drop. While walking up to the bag drop counter the camera will identify the passenger. The first advantage is, of course, the time gained as the passenger is identified by the system before the passenger has walked up to the counter to drop a bag. No fumbling with passports and boarding card to identify a passenger. The second big advantage is that the KLM agent can welcome the passenger personally and that way give a better and faster service. With this positive experience we certainly hope to expand to other touchpoints. Walking pace capturing of biometrics will become the norm in airport facilitation sooner rather than later.

What are your plans for the future in terms of digital identity management and implementing concepts from IATA’s One ID?

The Aruba Happy Flow platform currently supports the identity management system of the three operational partners: Government of Aruba (Immigration Authorities), Aruba Airport Authority and KLM as it organises and supports their workflow management. However, it is a platform that can be extended with more touchpoints. For instance, lounge access and mobile enrolment or other airlines and third parties could even include off-airport partners like a hotel. This vision for the near future, progressing even closer to the One ID vision, builds on the platform as the foundation. This has always been an intrinsic part of the cooperation between the stakeholders/partners was organised and the technology was designed.

What will be the largest benefit from implementing these initiatives?

Aruba, like many other countries, sees a steady growth in its number of passengers. As a large part of the economy of Aruba is focused on tourism we want to give our visitors the best experience. Built on the One ID concept of providing an end-to-end digital identity management system, the Aruba Happy Flow has a passenger-centric design and makes our airport experience fast, secure and easy. Consequently, the operational processes of the partners are more efficient and passenger flow is greatly improved at all touch points; bag drop, border control and boarding. Through our work flow management with real-time information all three stakeholders have improved their operation’s efficiency. The border control authorities have a faster throughput at the border while also having an early information position on the passengers arriving at the border gates. The airport has seen a better passenger flow and has the possibility to handle flow disruptions in a real time situation. KLM has seen faster check in and boarding and is able to give a better passenger experience. Last but not least, the passenger enjoys being in control and moving through the process faster and with ease.

What have been your biggest challenges in this implementation and how did you address them?

It is crucial for all the stakeholders participating to be on the same page and to all understand the implications of the project they are engaging in. It requires time and listening to one another. It is this understanding and the realisation that there are benefits for each stakeholder that is vital to create the trust that such a data sharing adventure requires. The privacy impact assessment was an important step for all involved to gain a crucial understanding of the concept in the three different operational organisations involved; government, airport and airline. The fact that we adhered to the privacy by design principle from the onset of the project was also crucial and gave the trust that no confidential law-enforcement or commercial information would be compromised.  

How do you see your initiative, using the One ID concept, benefiting stakeholders on a local and global scale?

With Aruba Happy Flow we hope to set an example for implementing a One ID / NEXTT passenger journey approach and show it is possible to create a federated identity management system in a local air travel ecosystem. The aim is of course is to connect with another seamless passenger flow in a cross-border scenario. We have prepared for that by making sure we can scale the platform by adding more stakeholders and connecting to other systems while ensuring privacy and data protection. Scalability and interconnectivity are key to being prepared for the future.

What must happen/change on an industry level to realise these benefits and achieve the NEXTT Vision, described above?

We must come up with standards that are not overbearing, but at the same time adequate and respect different legal and cultural systems. The privacy by design principle is a good example that can help to achieve the interconnectivity we will need both locally and globally. Also, when dealing with these complicated concepts it is important to not lose track of some old principles; governments decide if someone can cross a border or not. Therefore, if we look at a federated identity management system, whereby a group of stakeholders accepts the identity established by one of them, it makes sense to have government/control authorities verify the identity of a passenger. This also makes sense when looking at connecting seamless passenger flows in a cross-border scenario.

The IATA One ID task force has been working hard towards standards that can be accepted on a global scale. In the task force we learn by doing; sharing experiences of developing seamless passenger flows all across the world.


Annet Steenbergen is co-founder/initiator of the Aruba Happy Flow project for the Government of Aruba. The Happy Flow project is the first single token initiative that creates a seamless flow of passenger facilitation from curb to gate through the reuse of biometrics and advanced cooperation between the public and the private sector. Taking the stakeholder cooperation to a new level turned out to be in everyone’s interest; raising the passenger experience, creating room for growth and making the process more safe and secure.

In 2016, Annet took on the chair of IATA’s Facilitation Working Group (FWG) and has a seat on the IATA’s Passenger Experience Management Group. Since 2017 IATA started the One ID task force, residing under the FWG that is looking at creating interoperability between airports with a seamless passenger facilitation. This TF is looking at the required standards and best practices to prepare the aviation industry for seamless travel.

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