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Delta Air Lines implements facial recognition check-in

written by Isabella Richards | October 28, 2021

Delta Air Lines’ factory fresh Airbus A321 takes off. (Delta Air Lines)

Delta Air Lines has announced it is pioneering facial recognition capabilities in bag drop, security and boarding for “completely hands- and device-free” travel.

The Atlanta-based airline will commence the TSA PreCheck in November at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the company said in a statement.

“We want to give our customers more time to enjoy travel by unlocking simplified, seamless and efficient experiences from end to end,” said Byron Merritt, Delta’s vice-president of brand experience design.

Biometrics and facial recognition have continued to ramp up as the COVID-19 pandemic has pressured the aviation industry to provide hands-free options for customer safety.

Customers who use the Fly Delta app and a TSA PreCheck membership will be eligible for the bag drop lobby in Atlanta’s domestic south terminal, passing through using their digital identity.

The digital identity will include the customer’s SkyMiles Member number, passport number and known traveller number.

“[It] saves customers an average of more than two minutes (and more during peak travel times) by allowing them to skip the lines inside the main airport lobby,” Delta said.


Jessica Mayle, a TSA spokesperson told CBS News a customer would be verified and move through security in between six to 10 seconds because of the facial identity technology.

Eligible customers will also use a facial scan to pass through the domestic checkpoint in specific TSA PreCheck lanes, without needing government ID or a boarding pass.

Lastly, customers will use facial scan to receive a boarding pass, similar to the previous checkpoints.

“We are glad to support self-service technologies that enhance security and reduce physical contact for passengers and TSA employees,” said Atlanta’s TSA Federal Security director Robert Spinden.

In Atlanta, facial recognition will be available for domestic boarding at T1-T8 gates, and the same will be offered to Detroit customers at gates A10 and A12 later this year.

“This is one of many such pilots at domestic airports, and we look forward to continuing to test new initiatives with airline and interagency partners,” Spinden said.

Delta made it clear if travellers do not want to use the facial recognition, they have the option to use the standard check-in process.

“Delta does not save or store any biometric data, nor does it plan to,” the company said.

Apparently, four in five American passengers would share personal information to save time during travel, said travel analyst Henry Hartevedlt.

Delta said it has been years in the making, as part of transforming the airport process to become “effortless”.

In April this year, competitor United Airlines announced trials of biometric check-in at San Francisco International Airport.

Using a SITA Smart Path, United passengers would link their personal data to facial biometric systems at check-in.

American Airlines in late 2019 also launched biometric boarding for customers at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.



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