SWISS will trial a system to count passengers boarding in an effort to alleviate FAs of this pre-flight duty.

SWISS boeing 777
Photo: SWISS

Lufthansa Group member Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) announced on Tuesday, April 4th, that it is planning to run a three-month trial to count passengers using artificial intelligence (AI). The aim of the trial is to reduce the workload of the cabin crew while enhancing security.

No more FAs with ‘counter-clickers’?

You may or may not have the procedure that takes place prior to aircraft pushback and takeoff: The final passenger headcount. Doing this ensures the right amount of passengers are onboard the aircraft – a figure that should match the number listed on the flight manifest. This helps to weed out any purposeful or accidental stowaways or raise the issue of missing passengers. The headcount is typically conducted by having a flight attendant walk up and down the aisle with a handheld ‘counter-clicker’ Each time a passenger is spotted, a button is pushed, and the count is registered on the small device.

Swiss A321 cabin

Photo: SWISS

SWISS hopes to alleviate cabin crew of this responsibility using AI. As the airline states, “the digitalization of the passenger count procedure is intended to enhance security and simultaneously ease the workload of the airline’s cabin personnel.”

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How (and when) will SWISS do it?

According to the airline, selected SWISS flights from Zurich between April and June will see a camera temporarily installed in the cabin for the boarding process. This camera will record passengers as they embark, and determine their total numbers. The recordings, the airline notes, will train the AI application in the boarding process.

As we’ve learned from seeing footage of “self-driving” Tesla cars getting into horrible accidents, AI has a long way to go before it can be trusted with certain duties. Is the process of counting passengers a simple enough task? SWISS notes that the system will have to pass a few ‘tests’ to be considered successful. This includes the ability to distinguish whether a passenger is carrying an infant in their arms, and “must also function faultlessly even in challenging lighting conditions.”

Swiss a320

Photo: SWISS

The airline notes that results will be “constantly analyzed” during this three-month-long trial phase to improve reliability. Additionally, since the next few months will be a trial, the manual, conventional headcount procedure will be conducted as well. Following the trial, SWISS will analyze the results and then decide if this method should be introduced.

Privacy assured

In its official statement, the airline emphasized that the privacy of passengers will be protected, as it “attaches the highest importance to data security and data protection.” All the recordings, the airline says, “will be processed in full compliance with the strict European (GDPR) and Swiss (FADP) data protection provisions, and will then be deleted.”

Passengers on relevant flights will be informed of the trial before boarding, and the airline states that no one will be identified from the images captured. Audio will not be collected as part of the process.

So how do you think this AI trial will do? Can you think of any boarding conditions or scenarios that might ‘trick’ or ‘confuse’ AI? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

  • Swiss Airbus A330-343 HB-JHJ (3)
    Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying


    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Zurich Airport

    Year Founded:

    Star Alliance

    Airline Group:
    Lufthansa Group

    Dieter Vranckx



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