Delta Expands Biometric Digital ID Testing To Domestic Travelers

Delta Air Lines is launching the first domestic digital identity test in the United States. The Atlanta-based carrier shared this week that the move helps it provide a touchless curb-to-gate experience for its customers.

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Delta promotes that the initiative will help passengers to move through the airport quicker and more easily. Photo: Getty Images

A more seamless experience

According to a press release seen by Simple Flying, Delta passengers passing through Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport now have the opportunity to go through this new process. The airline has partnered with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to introduce this facial recognition system for domestic travelers using a digital ID made up of a traveler’s passport number and TSA PreCheck membership.

From February, domestic passengers will be able to use the digital ID, which is validated by facial recognition technology, to move through Detroit’s Edward H. McNamara Terminal’s dedicated TSA PreCheck domestic checkpoint.

This use of this technology will also soon be expanded to bag drop and boarding this year. This move would make Detroit the first airport to have a facial recognition option from curb to gate for TSA PreCheck customers on domestic services. Delta highlights that this move is a crucial step on the path to a smoother and more touchless experience at the airport. This initiative follows on from the airline’s existing facial recognition option for any customer flying to an international destination.

Delta Biometrics
Passengers flying direct to an international destination with Delta or its partners can use facial recognition technology from right the beginning of their airport journey all the way to the gate. Photo: Delta Air Lines

How it works

To be eligible to participate in the Detroit test, passengers need a passport number and a TSA PreCheck membership. This information is used as a digital ID to verify a traveler’s identity at touchpoints.

The process will work as follows:

  • Passengers store their passport information and TSA PreCheck Known Traveler Number securely in their SkyMiles profile in the Fly Delta app
  • They then opt into the program at check-in via the app
  • At the airport, they can look into the camera at bag drop, the security checkpoint, and the boarding gate to use their digital identity in place of a physical ID and boarding pass
Delta Facial Recognition
Once a participating passenger reaches a facial recognition camera, their image is encrypted, stripped of biographic information, and sent to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) facial biometric matching service via a secure channel, the identity of the traveler is then validated against the CBP image gallery. Photo: Delta Air Lines

A new climate

Delta’s chief customer experience officer, Bill Lentsch, spoke about the potential of this initiative. Overall, there is plenty of room for expansion with measures such as this.

“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,” Lentsch said in the release.

“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.”

Nonetheless, if a traveler does not want to use facial recognition, they can simply not choose to opt in at check-in and continue to pass through as normal. Ultimately, this process is completely voluntary and Delta does not save or store any biometric data.

Altogether, Delta is keen to progress with its industry-leading innovation in facial recognition, and the airline will continue to provide touchless experiences as it promised at CES 2020. It won’t be a surprise to see further expansions in this field across the board this decade amid an increase in demand for contactless procedures.

What are your thoughts about Delta Air Lines providing the first domestic digital identity test in the US? Do you feel that this is a good move by the carrier? Let us know what you think of the initiative in the comment section.