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Delta Airlines New Biometric Technology Will Speed Up Wait Times At U.S. Airports

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Delta Air Lines is expanding new facial recognition technology that they say can reduce the time it takes between arriving at the airport and getting passengers in their seats.

The latest expansion of the technology in the Atlantic airport will bring biometrics to domestic travelers in the U.S. for the first time.

Delta Airlines Biometric Technology Could Speed Up Travel Times In US Airports

Delta Expanding Biometric Technology In Atlanta Airport

Yesterday, Delta Airlines announced an expansion of how it uses biometrics to let passengers drop their bags, go through security and board their plane by simply showing their face. The expansion will be done in partnership with TSA PreCheck.

Travelers going through Atlanta, who are members of Delta’s SkyMiles frequent flier program and TSA pre-check now get their own self-service PreCheck bag-drop area.

bag check airport

Passengers who opt into the program through the Delta app can walk up to the new bag-drop machines at the Atlanta airport and scan their face, which will validate who they are through the TSA’s database. Then, the machine will print out their baggage label for them.

Once they attach the label, they set the bag on the belt and the new automated bag-drop machines weigh the bag and use cameras to check its size.

“Our target here is 30 seconds,” Greg Forbes, Delta’s managing director of Airport Experience said during a press event ahead of the official unveiling.

“The way that we’re going to get there is not only the technology, the fact that there’s no choreography — you don’t have to launch the app or look for your driver’s license — [but also because] we’re also gathering together people who travel very similarly.”

suitcase in airport

The technology only works for regular roller bags, suitcases, and duffle bags.

“If you come in with your surfboard, your golf clubs, Skycap [curbside check-in] is going be a better choice for you. If you’re Mrs. Johnson’s second-grade field trip and there’s 30 kids and they all have ticket problems. Not a great experience for you,” he said. 

More than 25% of Atlanta-based Delta flyers are already eligible for this expedited experience.

Passengers will be quickly verified at the security checkpoint by looking at a camera at a TSA station. They will not need to show a boarding pass or ID.

TSA Pre-Check Screening area at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Jessica Mayle, a TSA spokesperson, said someone would be able to be verified and move through security in about 6 to 10 seconds. 

Then there will be one final check at the boarding gate. Passengers will look at a screen where the gate agent is – pull down their mask – and then be verified to board.

The biometric information is pulled from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection database of passport photos. Delta hopes to expand the program to some European passport holders who also have PreCheck or Global Entry in the future.

Passengers walking in the airport corridor with luggage.

The company's senior vice president for customer experience, Ranjan Goswami, said the facial recognition technology has been years in the making and not only speed up travel but make people's lives easier.

“In today’s world where every minute of our life is scheduled, I think people want to make sure that we at Delta are respecting their time and finding all the opportunities to reduce the time that it takes for them to get on board the airplane,” he told The Points Guy.

delta airplane

This pilot program will run through June when Delta hopes TSA will clear it for permanent use and expansion to other major airports.

Other major U.S. carriers like United and American Airlines are piloting facial recognition ID checks at limited airport locations, but Delta wants to be the first to offer full curb-to-gate security centered around the new technology.

John F. Kennedy Airport NYC

Travel analyst Henry Hartevedlt said that Delta is testing this new technology to see how people will react, and fliers are overwhelmingly supportive of trying out the new technology.

“Our research among U.S. airline passengers show four out of five would share personal or biometric data with an airline they regularly fly to save time,” Hartevedlt said.  

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