Airport Booking Strategy Travel Technology Travel Trends

The First Facial-Screening Biometric Terminal Just Opened at This U.S. Airport

Get ready for your close up. Delta Air Lines and the Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport have opened the nation’s first optional biometric screening checkpoints, which use facial recognition scanning to expedite the airport process from check-in to boarding.

The technology is being used at the airport’s international terminal: Terminal F. In an announcement, Delta said Atlanta “customers flying direct to an international destination on Delta, Aeromexico, Air France, KLM or Virgin Atlantic Airways can use facial recognition technology from curb to gate, including to:

  • Check in at the self-service kiosks in the International lobby
  • Drop checked baggage at the counters in the International lobby
  • Serve as identification at the TSA checkpoint
  • Board a flight at any gate in Terminal F
  • And, go through CBP processing for international travelers arriving into the U.S.”

According to Delta, replacing traditional processes with biometric alternatives will not only speed things up, it improves security. “Nearly all 25,000 customers who travel through ATL Terminal F each week are choosing this optional process, with less than 2 percent opting out,”the airline said in a statement. “And, based on initial data, the facial recognition option is saving an average of two seconds for each customer at boarding, or nine minutes when boarding a wide body aircraft.”

[st_related]Coming to a Security Checkpoint Near You: Fingerprint Screening[/st_related]

According to USA Today, Delta customers can enter their passport information during online check-in or scan their passport when checking in at the airport. Travelers can then opt for a facial scan at Delta’s automated kiosks. These scans will be matched to passport or visa photos on file with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The same option is available at check-in kiosks, TSA checkpoints, and gates.

“We’re removing the need for a customer checking a bag to present their passport up to four times per departure,” Gil West, Delta’s COO, said in the statement. “[This] means we’re giving customers the option of moving through the airport with one less thing to worry about, while empowering our employees with more time for meaningful interactions with customers.”

The Future of Flying, Long in the Making

Biometric screening is not a new concept, but Delta is the first airline to put it into regular use. JetBlue tested the technology last year, and other airlines have experimented with pilot programs as well. For its part, Delta rolled out the features slowly over the course of the fall, presumably so travelers could get used to the idea.

Looking ahead, the airline also plans to bring biometric check-in to its hub in Detroit, where the airline began testing facial recognition technology this past summer. Delta plans to roll out roll out facial recognition technology from curb to gate in 2019.

Readers, have you flown through Atlanta’s Terminal F lately? Have you encountered facial recognition experiments elsewhere? Share your experience below.


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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the Boston travel guide.

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