You might have seen a news story or two recently about how Delta is rolling out Biometric technology for airport check-in and security. If you know what that means, good on you! But if not, we’ve put together a little explainer to get you up to speed. We hope to tell you about this cool (not-so-new) technology and share which airlines are bringing Biometrics to the air travel experience.
What is Biometrics Technology?
Put simply, biometrics are the body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics. Biometrics can be used for identification. Some examples of biometrics are fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, iris recognition and voice recognition.
For years, the travel industry has promised a new age of airport screening, but as with many technological advances, the age of COVID-19 accelerated these changes. Now, every aspect of our lives suddenly became much more invested in “touchless” experiences.
The airlines have been actively trialing biometric technology over the past few months, and you can expect to see the testing and implementation continue to be fast-tracked into 2022. Here are a few of the airlines moving the needle on biometrics and what you can expect to see from each of them.
Delta promises that their foray into biometrics will streamline your passage through the airport, making everything a bit speedier.
If you’re passing through the airports in Atlanta or Detroit, are a Delta SkyMiles member eligible for TSA PreCheck, and have a U.S. passport – you can opt into the new biometric screening. Whew! That’s a lot of qualifications. But also, you’re going to trial the new technology. Here’s how it will work.
First, you’ll need to store your passport information in the Fly Delta app and you need to check-in via the app. That’s crucial. The service is only open to those checking in on the app. The reason you need a passport is because the technology pulls data directly from your passport photo.
The biggest convenience for travelers will be with an Express bag check process for folks who opt in. Instead of going through a touchscreen to print out your bag tags, all you’ll do is look at a screen. The process will authenticate you and automatically print out your bag tags.
At security checkpoints, passengers will also be identified with a simple look into a camera at a TSA station. However, Delta has not committed to a separate line for these passengers which means, for the time being at least, that you’re not going to experience an expedited security check.
Finally, you’ll also get a check at boarding – simply pull down your mask, look at a screen and then be cleared for boarding. Atlanta’s “T” gates and Detroit’s “A” gates will have the technology. No more fumbling through your pockets for your phone or boarding pass.
Earlier this year, United rolled out a biometric revolution of their own at San Francisco International Airport. Since April, using SITA Smart Path, participating passengers link their driver’s license photo to their facial biometric at check-in. They can then complete check-in, bag drop and boarding by scanning their face at each touchpoint. At the moment, the technology is not available at security checkpoints.
AirAsia has developed its own biometric technology called FACES (Fast Airport Clearance Experience System), that it says will help speed customers through the airport and on board airplanes. The airline says that you’ll be able to check into flights, and pay for travel and lifestyle services on the app. The technology will first be trialed in the Philippines and on yet-to-be-announced international flights.
If the technology is cutting-edge, Emirates can usually be found at the forefront of what’s new and cool. They were first to get on board with biometric technology last year, a full year ahead of Delta. Touting the experience as an “integrated biometric path” at the airport, Emirates told passengers the new technology would make their experience convenient and safe.
Passengers traveling to and from Dubai can take advantage of the technology simply by strolling through the airport. Using a mix of facial and iris scanning technology, passengers check in, drop bags, board flights and even clear immigration. The first of its kind “Smart Tunnel” lets passengers walk through a tunnel and on the short walk are cleared by immigration, without human intervention or the need for a physical passport stamp.
The service is available to passengers in all classes of service.
While Spirit is also testing facial recognition biometrics, they’re taking a different approach that still requires agent verification of details.
Keep an eye out next spring. In April the TSA is supposed to approve or deny Delta and United’s biometric program. If these two titans of air travel get the go-ahead, you can expect to see the rest of the airlines move to quickly implement the technology.
We’ll keep you up to date on any new developments. Let us know what you think of biometric technology in the comments section below. Are you on board? Skeptical? What kinds of reservations do you have? And if you’re in support, we’d like to hear what you like the most about biometrics for air travel – the health benefits? The convenience? Thanks so much!