Delta Introduces Facial Recognition Technology for Smoother CX

New tech speeds check-in and boarding

Kindra Cooper

delta facial recognition technology

If you’ve ever panicked about misplacing your passport after having to show it and stow it three or four times as you proceed from check-in to boarding, this might allay your qualms: Delta Airlines, together with the TSA and the US Customs & Border Protection, just opened the first biometric terminal in the US, which uses facial recognition technology to verify a passenger’s identity.  

The technology is being piloted at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Terminal F, as well as the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. By mid-December, the Detroit-headquartered airline will expand the facial recognition test program at the Detroit international airport to all 14 international gates in the Mcnamara Terminal.

Passengers flying out of the country with Delta or its partners AeroMexico, AirFrance, KLM or Virgin Atlantic can use the technology. Based on initial data, Delta said the technology will save an average of two seconds per passenger at boarding, and nine minutes overall when boarding a widebody plane, “creating less stressful boarding experiences and more time for agents to engage with our customers.”

A Delta news release puts it: “One look and you’re on your way.”

Facial recognition technology has been integrated into all self-service kiosks and check-in counters at participating airports, as well as all gates at participating terminals. One simply clicks “Look” on the screen at the kiosk when prompted or approaches the camera at the Delta counter.

The camera scans your face and the picture is compared to images in government databases, including passport and visa photos, verifying your identity in as little as two seconds. Travelers can opt out of facial recognition and proceed through check-in and boarding as normal, presenting their passport and boarding pass for verification.

“We’re removing the need for a customer checking their bag to present their passport up to four times per departure, which means we’re giving customers the option of moving through the airport with one less thing to worry about,” Gil West, Delta’s Chief Operating Officer, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

However, early trials of facial recognition technology in general show that it works more accurately for white men than for white women, and more easily identifies those with lighter skin than people of color.

It’s not the only technology Delta has pioneered in the interest of smoothing the customer experience: at Terminal F of the Atlanta airport, customers no longer have to extract electronics from their bags at TSA checkpoints; they can simply put their bags through a CT scanner.

The second-largest carrier in the US, Delta was the first airline to champion baggage tracking systems for customers with printable luggage tags embedded with RFID chips that allowed customers to track their items in real-time through the Fly Delta mobile app.