Many of Delta Air Lines’ domestic passengers soon will have the option to traverse the airport using a “digital identity:” a combination of their SkyMiles member number, passport number and Known Traveler Number.
Delta’s new facial-recognition-powered path in Atlanta, developed in partnership with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, includes a dedicated bag-drop area away from the general check-in area, on the lower level of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport near the rideshare drop-off area. There, self-serve kiosks confirm passengers’ identity with a facial scan and print out bag tags, which passengers can attach to their bags, then load them onto a conveyer belt.
From there, passengers can pass through the security checkpoint that has a second camera to perform the facial scan. A third piece of equipment at the gate conducts another facial scan to let the passenger through, without the need to show identifications or boarding passes at any point.
To participate, travelers must be members of both Delta’s SkyMiles program and the TSA’s PreCheck program. About a quarter of Delta’s Atlanta-based flyers currently are members of both, Delta managing director of airport experience Greg Forbes said. Those passengers will have the choice to opt in when checking in through the Delta app, an option that will reappear each trip from Atlanta.
Throughout the airport journey, those passengers will have the option to follow whichever path they like, Forbes said. If they are members of Clear, which uses biometric identifiers like fingerprint and iris scans, they still can use that line, for example. Staff is on hand throughout all aspects of the process in case there’s a snag with the technology.
Ultimately, however, TSA sees facial recognition as a much more effective method of security than standard ID checks, Forbes said. “It’s much harder to fool facial recognition than it is to counterfeit a driver’s license,” he said.
Delta has been working on its biometric technology for several years, including its similar program in Detroit that soon will have its own dedicated bag-drop area as well, and is working on expanding to more of its hubs. Delta VP of brand experience design Byron Merritt said facial recognition was a “fundamental capability,” similar to Wi-Fi on an aircraft, that will open up other passenger experience opportunities in the future, such as lounge access.
“Having the ability for a customer to move more seamlessly through the airport is going to unlock a better way to being able to serve you more broadly,” Merritt said.