Standardisation could be necessary before we truly see widespread use of biometrics

16 January, 2019

US major Delta Air Lines marked a major milestone in late 2018 with the opening for the first biometric terminal at its largest hub and headquarters in Atlanta. But some standardisation of biometrics could be necessary in order for the technology to achieve widespread global adoption.

Passengers travelling through Terminal F at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport do not need tickets or phones for check-in, bag check or security. All of those functions are completed through facial recognition technology.

Other US airlines are also using biometrics. JetBlue has trialled biometrics at Boston Logan, Fort Lauderdale and New York JFK, and in late 2018 introduced a biometric boarding gate at JFK. American Airlines has introduced biometric boarding from Los Angeles on select international flights.

Obviously Delta is the most advanced in deploying biometrics, but the technology will take some time to achieve global adoption. Recently, Tony Chapman, senior director marketing, product management and strategy, at Collins Aerospace, told the Collins-sponsored publication Connected Aviation Today that current biometrics programmes in place are largely US centric, and the challenge is making biometrics a global solution as each country has different requirements.

But Mr Chapman also concluded some of those challenges should start to be addressed in 2019. This year he predicts pairs of countries will start collaborating for a biometrics programme, “but for a global solution, there needs to be a governing body involved that can make recommendations and set standards”. The publication stated Mr Chapman predicts that the end-to-end journey will evolve with permanent enrollment.

Delta is seeking to transform the air travel experience with investments in technology, aircraft, airport facilities and its employees. Last week, its CEO Ed Bastian told the tech world at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, the world's largest and most influential technology event, that the airline's goal is to make travel something customers don't have to endure, but a magical experience.

He explained how data is helping Delta build relationships with its nearly 200 million annual customers by giving the airline's 80,000 employees more meaningful information at their fingertips about any customer. "We have a culture of service that's in our DNA, and our people love to serve people," he said, adding that offering personalised service to customers is core to Delta's brand.

The biometric Maynard H Jackson International Terminal (Terminal F) in Atlanta has been live since Dec-2018 and allows customers flying direct to an international destination on Delta, or partners Aeromexico, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic Airways, to use facial recognition technology from curb to gate.

Delta plans to scale the end-to-end airport biometric terminal experience to its Detroit Metropolitan Airport in 2019. In partnership with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Wayne County Airport Authority it expanded the facial recognition boarding test that started in Jul-2018 to all 14 international gates at McNamara Terminal late last year. This year, Delta will roll out facial recognition technology at the airport from curb to gate for its customers.