Delta Air Lines To Debut Facial Recognition In Seattle

While Delta is actively rolling it out at the Seattle airport, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will also start using facial recognition on travelers entering the country. This will happen next July, when Sea-Tac’s new international arrivals building opens.

Not a straightforward roll-out

The Seattle Times is also reporting that the publicly elected Port of Seattle Commission must decide on the adoption of this new technology for the rest of the airport. In just a few weeks – mid-December – a five-member commission will “vote on principles to guide the use of facial recognition at Sea-Tac”. The commission would also apply these principles to similar biometric technologies throughout the Port of Seattle. Here is part of the commission’s proposed motion:

As with any developing technology, public sector leaders have an obligation to ensure appropriate and responsible use of not only the technology itself, but the related data that is  generated. The Port Commission believes proper biometric policy should balance operational needs, business priorities and regulatory mandates with protections for the interests and rights of passengers, employees and other visitors to our facilities.

Commissioners are hoping that facial recognition is kept as a “voluntary, equitable and justified” service. However, civil-liberties groups are worried that this is not going to be possible. In fact, some elected representatives are calling the technology invasive, unregulated and inaccurate. Once this technology has passed its experimental phase, many aviation firms may make the use compulsory, which certainly worries opponents.
Below are the Port of Seattle Commission’s seven principles that will be voted on:
  1. Voluntary
  2. Private
  3. Equitable
  4. Transparent
  5. Lawful
  6. Ethical
  7. Justified

Definitions of these words in the context of the motion can be found here.

Delta Air Lines To Debut Facial Recognition In Seattle
Delta has used this technolog at ATL, LAX and now SEA. Photo: Delta Airlines.

The benefits of this technology

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that facial recognition takes less than two seconds and has a 99% matching rate. These reports make the prospect of investing in this technology all the more desirable.

In fact, German carrier Lufthansa successfully boarded 350 passengers onto an Airbus A380 within a mere 20 minutes. The airline began trialing the one-step boarding for some flights from Los Angeles in 2018.

Delta Air Lines To Debut Facial Recognition In Seattle
US Customs and Border Patrol will use this technology for passengers entering the United States. Photo: cbpphotos via Flickr


If this technology continues to prove successful it will undoubtedly be used to save the airlines money with less time needed at an airport gate. However, in Seattle we will have to wait and see how the Port of Seattle Commission votes and if technology can then adapt to the principles that they’ve agreed upon.

Are you one of the passengers that have already experienced this technology? How did it go? Let us know by leaving a comment!

We contacted Delta for an official statement but did not receive a response at the time of publishing.