Delta Air Lines Launches Facial Recognition Checks

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
October 29, 2021 Updated: October 29, 2021

At this airport, boarding a plane is now a hassle-free experience for a select group of passengers.

Delta Air Lines and the Transportation Security Administration in the US have teamed up to offer a check-in and boarding system using a facial recognition software system.

The pilot program begins in Atlanta next week, with a similar effort launching in Detroit the week after.

Gregory Forbes, Delta’s Managing Director of Airport Experience, demonstrates the check-in experience.

“There is no workstation here. If you need your ticket to Cairo fixed they’re going to be happy to help you upstairs. Also if you come in at this point with skis and golf bags and all that, skycap right next door. That’s where you should go. This is for our roller bags, duffle bags, standard luggage. This agent really is just making sure that nobody gets past this point without that digital ID indicator on their boarding pass. So just a quick visual review on the phone,” says Forbes.

Customers will need both the Fly Delta app and a TSA PreCheck membership to take part in the pilot program.

The passengers have to check in their luggage themselves.

“So this is the same self-tagging that you do up in the main lobby. And then lay the bag on the belt,” says Forbes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unexpected effect on the implementation of this technology.

“That was all in motion before COVID. What COVID did was accelerate it. So, this facility was closed because the customer volume was so light. So we took that opportunity to gut it and do this construction where if we had to do this while the facility was open that would have been much more difficult. It would have taken more time,” says Forbes.

ID checks are as simply as looking at a camera, without even showing an ID document.

If all goes as planned, customers will be able to travel from curb to gate, completely hands- and device-free.

“After they use the bag drop downstairs, they’ll come through. This machine will take a live photo of the passenger and it compares that photo against a gallery of pre-staged photos. So that would be pictures that they submitted for their passport or visas, other pictures of them that we have on file and then it verifies their identity based on that, if that’s the same person,” says Jessica Mayle, TSA spokesperson.

As per usual, one last check is carried out at the gate.

Passengers need to remove their face masks for the camera to identify them, and within seconds, they are cleared to board.

“This is the culmination of what you’ve seen today. So, you move through the pre-check express bag drop. You move through the TSA experience and all of those have been enabled through facial recognition. This is the last part of the journey. And so what this allows is someone to board the aircraft simply by using their face,” says Byron Merritt, Vice President Brand Experience Design, Delta.

The bag drop portion of the system will be available for qualified Delta customers the week of 5 November 2021, with the other facial recognition points to be functional ahead of the holidays.