Delta Air Lines Inc. is deploying facial-recognition technology to replace passports and tickets at Atlanta’s airport in a test that could lead to more widespread use of biometric identification for flyers.
The new system will be phased in Oct. 15 at check-in kiosks, baggage-drop counters, security checkpoints and boarding lines for international flights in Terminal F of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta said Thursday.
If customers take to the technology at the world’s busiest airport, and it helps to reduce boarding times and shorten long lines, the biometrics will be rolled out to other domestic and international airport terminals, said Delta Chief Operating Officer Gil West.
“If it works in Atlanta, it’ll work anywhere,” West said.
The service is optional for now. To use it, customers will enter their passport information during online check-in. Then, at each transition point at the airport, passengers will approach the kiosks with cameras to scan their faces and wait for a green check mark before proceeding to the next spot. Passengers flying with Delta partners Aeromexico, Air France KLM, and Virgin Atlantic Airways are also eligible to use the service, the U.S. carrier said.
Airlines and security agencies are experimenting with fingerprint scans and facial-recognition technology to streamline the traveling experience for passengers. In June, the Transportation Security Administration became the latest participant, using fingerprint scans at the Denver and Atlanta airports to identify passengers and their flying itineraries in lieu of official identification papers and boarding passes.
The new technology is in line with a Congressional mandate for Customs and Border Protection to begin using biometrics to identify people as they exit the country, according to John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
By partnering with airlines and airports, the agency is “solving a complicated security mandate by focusing on the traveler experience,” Wagner said. “What we’ve heard from travelers is, if it’s quicker, makes them more secure and it’s easier to do, then they’re all for it.”
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