DigiYatra is the name of the paperless/biometrics-enabled initiative that intends to speed up processing time at the airport by processing passengers using facial recognition instead of manual entry. The initiative intends to use your picture, pulled from a government ID (aadhaar) and match it with your face to enable you to get through access into the airport, the security lane, and in some cases, boarding as well.
DigiYatra was launched in Delhi, Bengaluru and Varanasi in December 2022, with more airports to come online soon. Read our primer on how to sign up and use DigiYatra. In it, I showed how to sign up for the DigiYatra app.
When I checked in for my flight which would be using Terminal 3 at Delhi Airport earlier this month, I had to upload the boarding pass on the DigiYatra app to link it up with the Airport systems. To that effect, you need to go into the DigiYatra app and push the + button to add your boarding pass.
The next step is where you have to scan your boarding pass into the app. All the DigiYatra App is looking for is the QR code on your boarding pass (which is how systems read information, while the text is there for the humans). You can scan the QR code from your laptop/phone or upload a copy of the boarding pass as a PDF or an image.
Once done, you will see a new travel record added to your DigiYatra Home Screen (for lack of a better word) once you Accept the details presented (name, PNR, seat, etc.). The Departure time always reflects 00:00, so one can ignore that bit.
On accepting this, one also has to “share” the data, which is your acceptance to send the data to the server of the relevant airport. Look for a green sign on your data showing “Online” or “Shared.”
With that, the ticket data has now been shared with the airport concerned.
At the Airport
In my case, I was flying out of Delhi, as you would notice above, and hence I arrived at Delhi Airport Terminal 3 on the day of travel. There were these very long queues to enter the airport, which is par for the course at Delhi Airport nowadays. It is simple; it takes time for the security official to see your face and identity card, look through the ticket/boarding pass, match the details and let you in. Count it for at least a couple of minutes.
I headed to Gate 2A, which is the only gate at the moment where a DigiYatra-enabled turnstile has been installed. There is also a big assistance counter set up outside the gate itself.
Note the “empty” nature of this queue compared to the others.
You will almost always notice the DigiYatra gate being roped off. I’m told this is to keep off the folks who are not DigiYatra enabled. I had to show my DigiYatra app before they opened the rope for me.
At the turnstile, I had to place my boarding pass (you can put a physical one or an electronic one) for the DigiYatra systems to know what travel was coming up. After that, it asked me to look into the screen, took a picture of my face, validated it, and opened to pike doors in fewer than five seconds. All in all, from when I entered the roped-off area to when I entered the terminal, was 30 seconds by my stopwatch, which even included the time for taking the picture below.
Once inside the terminal, you can head straight for the security check if you are travelling with a handbag only, or you can head to the airline counters to drop your bags off before heading into security. In my case, I headed for a security check. Again, a particular queue lets you through if you are DigiYatra enabled. This queue was largely empty.
Here, there was no need to scan a boarding pass or anything. The camera took a picture of my face, analysed it, and opened the turnstile again, letting me in. The queue was empty, although someone ignorantly joined the queue from another on one of the two days I used the facility. Again, completing the security check took me less than a minute.
The third part of the DigiYatra enablement is the boarding gate. Since, on both days, my flights were not at gates enabled for DigiYatra, I had to pull out my phone and scan that at the boarding gate.
I am amused that despite the time saving, only 20,000 people have enrolled for DigiYatra when travelling out of Delhi. That is why I wanted to share my experiences and hope more of you sign up to improve your life.
We’re overjoyed to announce our first milestone; more than 20,000 smiles have now used DigiYatra at #DelhiAirport.
Save time with #DigiYatra, it's simple, easy & quick.
Register at: https://t.co/jMOD0wfhfS@MoCA_GoI @JM_Scindia @Officejmscindia#DELlife #DelhiAirport pic.twitter.com/mszYrWiWX9
— Delhi Airport (@DelhiAirport) January 7, 2023
DigiYatra is truly solving a problem that should have been solved five years ago, but at least we have it now. What is needed is more airports to be enabled for this and, subsequently, more gates and terminals at airports to be enabled. For instance, at Delhi Airport, only T3 is enabled for now. T1 and T2 need it as well.
Have you yet experienced the DigiYatra workflow at Delhi/Varanasi or Bangalore airports? What do you think about using biometrics for travel?
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To answer your surprise that only 20000 people have it is because for majority of people this crappy app doesn’t work. One of the common issue is that it won’t upload your picture. I tried the entire day yesterday before boarding but the damn thing did not work.
@Hemant, what picture? Just pull it from DigiLocker?
I also know at least a couple of folks who could not get their ID verified. The photo captured by the app doesn’t match with the Aadhar ID. This can be frustrating. Also for the folks who do not have DigiLocker setup, the entire UX of enrolling for DigiLocker from within the DigiYatra app is not a smooth experience. My recommendation would be to setup DigiLocker separately and then start the sign up process with DigiYatra App.
I am trying to enrol in digiyatra on my mobile and it is not happening . after taking my photo it is showing loading … for more than 10 mins … multiple times this is happening
@Karthic, you can take the help of the airport assistance counters as well
The requirement to scan the boarding pass at the first gate to enter the airport should be eliminated. Also the airlines counters and boarding gates should also be DigiYatra enabled (hopefully soon). The concept behind the app is that a person’s face serves as their identification, allowing them to board the plane without the need for any form of documentation, either digital or physical.
@Manish, I think we need to wait a few years for that. At this point there is no way to establish a link between your pnr and your face but to scan the boarding pass and tell them to track you for that particular ticket. Let’s say you have 3 checked in tickets on the same day, how will the system know for which flight have you turned up?
As for boarding gates, the technology exists but only at 1 gate in Del T3 for now. I believe once there is more adoption, the cheque book will open and installations done as well.
Agree with you Ajay that we are still at least a couple of years away from full adoption. I think the PNR to Face linking already happens in the DigiYatra app itself. When I spoke to some officials at the Delhi T3 airport last week they said its a bug in the system and hence they need passengers to scan the boarding pass at the terminal entry gate. Once this is fixed, there will not be a need to scan the boarding pass at the gate. Not sure how true that is.
For multiple check-in on the same day (and from the same airport), the system could present the passenger with the option to select the boarding pass once the authentication is done by Face ID. I am sure there could be other edge cases that we haven’t thought through but for 80% of the junta it’s typically 1 boarding pass per day per departing airport.
It seems that for now time saving is because of app’s existence since nobody else is using it, and you have exclusive gates, and not because of anything app does.
@Ashish Gupta, you need the app to access the right of way and the digital infrastructure that underlies DigiYatra. So If you just turned up without installing the app you won’t get in, right?