Delta has launched a pilot programme allowing selected domestic customers to verify their “digital ID” through facial recognition.

Customers travelling through Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport can opt into the trial at check-in, so long as they have stored their passport information and TSA Pre Check Known Traveller Number in the Skymiles profile within the Fly Delta app.

They can then use facial recognition in place of their physical ID and boarding pass to go through the dedicated TSA Pre Check domestic checkpoint at the airport.

The technology will also be extended to bag drop and boarding in early 2021, making Detroit the first airport to offer a facial recognition option from curb to gate.

Explaining the process Delta said:

“Once a customer reaches a camera at the airport, their image is encrypted, stripped of biographic information and sent to US Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) facial biometric matching service via a secure channel. CBP then verifies a customer’s identity against the CBP image gallery and sends back an indicator to allow the customer to proceed.”

Participation in the trial is voluntary, and the carrier stressed that it “does not save or store any biometric data, nor does it plan to”.

The initiative builds on Delta’s existing biometric options for customers, including the launch of its “end-to-end biometric terminal” at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport in 2018.

Delta’s end-to-end biometric terminal launches in Atlanta

Commenting on the news Bill Lentsch, Delta’s chief customer experience officer, said:

“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.

“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.”