Delta Tests Using Fingerprints for Boarding

Delta Fingerprint Boarding

Delta Air Lines has launched a pilot program that allows passengers at Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) to board flights using their fingerprints instead of boarding passes.

“The truly exciting piece of what Delta is doing, is how scalable this experience is in part due to our partnership with CLEAR,” said Gil West, Delta’s Senior Executive Vice President and COO. “Once we complete testing, customers throughout our domestic network could start seeing this capability in a matter of months – not years. Delta really is delivering the future now.”

Delta began the first phase of the program in late May of this year, and they have been using biometric scanners to allow entry into the Delta Sky Club at DCA since then. Once testing of the biometric scanners is complete later this summer, Delta plans to initiate a third phase, which will allow passengers to check their bags with their fingerprints as well.

How It Works

Delta Clear Scan And Fly
Biometric scanners like this one at DCA allow passengers to board their Delta flights with just their fingerprints. Image courtesy of Delta.

The process is quite simple: scan your fingerprint, then board the plane. No more paper boarding passes to print out, and no more electronic boarding passes to scan.

As the program expands to additional passengers, gate agents will have more time to assist with seat changes or other issues since they will not have to manually scan each boarding pass. Delta expects this to help them deliver a more convenient customer experience across the board.

To be eligible for the pilot program at DCA, passengers must be flying with Delta, be enrolled in CLEAR, and have a SkyMiles number. CLEAR will be running the backend of the program by using a passenger’s fingerprint and their SkyMiles number to identify them. Once a passenger’s identity is confirmed, they will be able to board the aircraft.

“It’s a win-win program,” said West. “Biometric verification has a higher level of accuracy than paper boarding passes….and customers have less to keep track of as they travel through the airport.”

Participation in the pilot phases of this project is optional. Delta passengers can still use paper or electronic boarding passes if they prefer. However, customer feedback has been encouraging during the first phase of the test. Delta expects the same positive reaction to using biometrics for checking bags.

Final Thoughts

The expansion of the biometric scanning program by Delta indicates that the first phase of the program was successful. Hopefully, we will soon see this process expanded to baggage drop-off and then to other airports around the country.

Boarding a plane using only a fingerprint should speed up the boarding process and keep customers from having to juggle their carry-on, a phone or paper boarding pass, and any food, drink, or other miscellaneous items they are bringing on board.

It will be interesting to see if membership in CLEAR remains a requirement as the program expands, or if Delta will move to a system of their own. With CLEAR operational in a limited number of airports and only available at an additional cost, this could limit the expansion of biometric screening.

Perhaps that is the goal, as it allows Delta time to work out the kinks in the process. It’s not a bad plan to enroll people slowly and make sure their system functions properly before expanding.

For now, if you are flying Delta out of DCA and are a member of CLEAR, give biometric boarding a try! There’s something kind of cool about boarding a plane with just your fingerprint.

Featured image courtesy of


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