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Delta launches first domestic digital identity test in U.S., providing touchless curb-to-gate experience

Delta customers in Detroit can use their passport number and TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry membership as a digital ID.
TSA Facial Recognition
  • Delta customers in Detroit can use their passport number and TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry membership as a digital ID
  • Building on its industry-leading innovation in facial matching, Delta continues to deliver on touchless, easy experience promised at CES 2020

Delta customers at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport now have the option to move through the airport faster and more easily. In partnership with Transportation Security Administration, Delta has launched the first facial matching option for domestic travelers using a digital ID made up of a customer’s passport number and TSA PreCheck® membership.

A screen on a phone showing Delta's Digital ID opt-in.

Beginning February, customers traveling in the U.S. will be able to use that digital ID – verified by facial matching technology – to move through the Edward H. McNamara Terminal’s dedicated TSA PreCheck domestic checkpoint. This capability will expand to bag drop and boarding in early 2021, making Detroit the first airport to have a facial matching option from curb to gate for TSA PreCheck customers traveling domestically – an important step on the path to an easier and more touchless airport experience. This builds on Delta’s existing facial matching option for any customer traveling to an international destination.

To be eligible to participate in the Detroit test, customers need a passport number and a TSA PreCheck membership. Facial matching technology uses this information as a digital ID to confirm a traveler’s identity at airport touchpoints. 

“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,” said Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened the importance of providing a touchless experience for our customers. We plan to expand facial matching and digital ID beyond the Detroit test so that all of our customers can enjoy a seamless, touchless travel experience across our network.”

If a customer does not want to use facial matching, they can simply not opt in at check-in and proceed through the airport as they always have - as participation is completely voluntary. Delta does not save or store any biometric data, nor does it plan to.

Participating customers can look forward to an easier and less stressful airport experience. Here’s how it will work:

  • Store your passport information and TSA PreCheck Known Traveler Number securely in your SkyMiles profile in the Fly Delta app
  • Opt into the program at check-in using the Fly Delta app
  • At the airport, you can look into the camera at bag drop, the security checkpoint and the boarding gate to use your digital identity in place of a physical ID and boarding pass

Once a customer reaches a camera at the airport, their image is encrypted, stripped of biographic information and sent to U.S. 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.

Since Delta launched the first biometric terminal in the U.S. in December 2018, the airline expanded facial matching capabilities to eight new markets over the next year. Prior to that, Delta tested facial matching with CBP for over three years in Atlanta, Detroit and New York-JFK – refining the experience along the way.

Over the years, Delta has partnered with TSA to solve other customer pain points to make the entire day of travel easier and less stressful, including:

  • Working with TSA to launch automated screening lanes in Atlanta and other hub airports.
  • Introducing computed tomography-automated screening lanes to speed up Atlanta’s international checkpoint.
  • Offering antimicrobial security bins in Atlanta, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Los Angeles, New York-LaGuardia and JFK.  
  • Increasing staffing levels to help support TSA during peak travel times and help alleviate long lines.
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