On Monday, Delta debuted 4 new self-service bag drop kiosks at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The $600,000 investment includes 1 biometric-based kiosk that uses facial recognition technology to match passengers with their passport photo for identity verification.
How does the new process work? Customers approach any of the 4 machines, enter their flight confirmation information, and then print and attach their luggage tags. Passengers then proceed, bags in hand, to the drop area.
If a customer is traveling with a valid passport, they may use the facial recognition station. Here, the passport will be scanned and then matched to a photo taken by the machine to verify the traveler’s identity. If approved, tagged bags are placed onto the belt, weighed, and taken through by the system.
If a customer is not carrying a passport, the process is similar: print and attach bags tags, and then proceed to the drop station for identity verification by a Delta check-in/ticketing attendant. Passengers carrying oversized luggage or items like car seats, golf clubs, etc., will need to process these items through a special lane with in-person assistance.
Delta claims these new self-service kiosks will ultimately save travelers time and provide a more seamless airport experience. Delta has reported the new self-service bag drops could allow them to process twice as many customers per hour vs. the traditional person-to-person baggage check-in.
Plus, Delta says the new procedures will allow them to devote more time and attention to passengers who don’t travel often. Business travelers and other frequent flyers who just want to check their bag efficiently now have a way to get to security quicker.
“Since customers can operate the biometric-based bag drop machine independently, we see a future where Delta agents will be freed up to seek out travelers and deliver more proactive and thoughtful customer service,” said Gareth Joyce, Delta’s Senior Vice President of Airport Customer Service and Cargo.
Furthermore, Delta reports they will collect customer feedback throughout the trial and run process analyses to ensure that this lobby enhancement does, in fact, improve the overall customer experience.
While Joyce is hailing this new service as a “thoughtful innovation,” it’s difficult to avoid customer privacy concerns. Considering other biometric-based services like facial recognition at boarding gates and security lanes are popping up across the country, the rise in passenger apprehension is certainly understandable.
“Implementation of the use of biometrics need to be scrutinized very closely,” said Jeramie Scott of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Increasingly, as we consolidate biometric data into big databases and we use it more and more, those databases will become targets, and the risk of data breach increases greatly,” Scott explained to CBS.
On Monday, Delta reassured the public that all privacy laws and regulations will be upheld. Currently, scanned images for facial recognition and identity verification are deleted immediately after the match is confirmed, and the system as a whole is not connected to any overarching database.
Delta isn’t shy about staking their claim on pioneering innovative customer-service solutions. For example, Delta has been working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to test biometric exit screening technology at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, and they are also testing biometric boarding pass technology at Regan National Airport in Washington, D.C.
In November 2016, Delta incorporated real-time bag tracking into their Fly Delta mobile app via their RFID baggage handling. Also in 2016, Delta debuted a new Flight Weather Viewer app aimed at providing pilots with real-time graphics of turbulence observations and forecasts on the flight deck.
Delta’s Joyce states, “We’re making travel easier than ever for our customers and continuing to deliver a leading customer experience.”