Delta Launches First Biometric Check-in System in the U.S.

by Chantal Welch
Delta Airlines Boeing 787

Delta Airlines has launched the first domestic digital identity test in the U.S, providing a touchless curb-to-gate experience. The initiative is a joint venture with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

Delta 757-351

Delta 757-351 © Motohide Miwa

Biometric Technology in Aviation

In the U.S, biometric technology and aviation first became established as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Legislation came into force that mandated the use of biometrics for U.S. Entry-Exit, and authorised TSA to use biometrics for passenger screening.

Biometrics are physical characteristics and biological measurements that can be used digitally to identify a person. Considerable progress has been made over the years as biometric technology has developed from fingerprints to facial recognition, voice recognition, and iris scanning. In aviation, biometrics are key to passenger identification and authentication.

Transforming the Passenger Experience

Biometric Self-Boarding Gates

Biometric Self-Boarding Gates © British Airways

Biometrics is radically transforming the air travel and passenger experience at airports. As passenger demand has grown over the years, it has become a cost-effective and secure way for the air travel sector to manage passengers and counter potential threats.

Passengers can benefit from a quicker, less stressful, and more secure airport experience. In terms of passenger data security, biometric data is erased as soon as the flight departs or, in some cases, upon completion of the return flight. Data is only used as a common point of reference for the different checks and controls. For passengers, biometrics simplifies the check-in process, providing an end-to-end self-service experience. It has the ability to reduce waiting times by 30% compared to traditional check-in desks. The more passengers have access to biometric technology, the higher the rate of satisfaction is, resulting in an improved passenger experience at the airport.

Man at airport

Man at airport © Edgar Pereira

The Future of Biometrics and Travel

Biometrics in the air travel sector reflects the current trend towards greater automation of control procedures, shaping the future of travel to come.

To date, there are over 1,200 million e-passports in circulation worldwide. This biometric recognition solution is one that has already been implemented in a growing number of airports worldwide. For aviation, the future is in biometrics. At the end of 2020, Ethiad trialed facial biometric check-in for cabin crew, Lufthansa implemented a biometric platform and Emirates launched an integrated biometric path at Dubai International Airport.

Accelerating Biometric Technology during Covid-19

Technology at London Heathrow Airport

Technology at London Heathrow Airport © British Airways

The aviation sector has been hit hard by the impacts of Covid-19. The industry requires a major redesign to regain and rebuild passenger confidence in secure and safe air travel. Biometric technology is an industry asset that can enhance security, convenience, and health.

It’s no surprise that the aviation industry is accelerating touchless and contactless biometric technology. It’s critical for the industry’s recovery.

Delta A350-900

Delta A350-900 © Delta

Delta’s Industry-Leading Biometric Innovation

Starting this month, Delta Airlines is launching the first facial recognition option for domestic travellers using a digital ID made up of a customer’s passport number and TSA PreCheck® membership.

Delta customers travelling in the U.S. will be able to use their digital ID, verified by facial recognition technology, to move through Detroit’s Edward H. McNamara Terminal’s dedicated TSA PreCheck domestic checkpoint. This will expand to bag drop and boarding in early 2021, making Detroit the first airport to have a facial recognition option from curb to gate for travellers. It marks an important step on the path to an easier and more touchless airport experience.

Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer said:

“When it comes to pulling forward the future of Delta’s customer experience, we think big, start small and scale fast, letting innovation lead the way as we continuously listen to customer feedback. The COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened the importance of providing a touchless experience for our customers. We plan to expand curb-to-gate facial recognition and digital ID beyond the Detroit test so that all of our customers can enjoy a seamless, touchless travel experience across our network.”

Delta aircraft parking

Delta aircraft parking © AeroInside

During the pandemic, the air travel sector has accelerated in innovation with new touchless, contactless, digital, and biometric technologies. These initiatives are critical to increasing passenger confidence, protecting health and safety, improving security, and most importantly to help with industry recovery. Introducing digital solutions and biometrics can help as a source of wealth and job creation. The more fluid and easier air travel becomes, the more destinations and visitors will benefit.

What are your thoughts on biometric technology in the travel sector? Has it improved your passenger experience? Let us know in the comments below

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