Spirit Airlines is introducing a biometric baggage drop system for passengers on domestic flights in the US. Passengers that opt in to the automated system will be asked to scan a photo ID, and the hardware will then use facial recognition to match the passenger to the ID and compare the information to that person’s flight reservation. After that, the passenger will be able to drop their bags and continue with the rest of their travel journey.
While many airports and airlines have introduced some form of biometric screening, Spirit claims that it is the first to leverage it for baggage drops on domestic flights in America. The company started testing the solution in January of 2020, before moving on to a more formal pilot with TSA supervision in May. The technology is developed by Materna Intelligent Passenger Solutions, which has previously provided similar tech for airports outside the US.
Spirit started planning its own system before the onset of COVID-19. However, the company believes that the pandemic has only made the technology more appealing, largely because the pandemic has created a greater demand for automated solutions that limit in-person contact.
“We knew that automation and biometric photo-matching would make the check-in process smoother,” said Spirit President and CEO Ted Christie. “Now we’re realizing those same elements are just as valuable when it comes to helping people feel comfortable flying. Limiting touchpoints and unnecessary face-to-face interactions will change the way airports operate.”
The Materna system has already been installed at LaGuardia Airport in New York and O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, and will soon be expanding to other airports. According to Spirit, the system makes the baggage check process 30 percent faster, lowering the average time to 70 seconds per guest. The solution is compatible with more than 50,000 forms of identification from nearly 200 different countries.
Spirit Airlines has participated in the TSA’s PreCheck program since 2017. Most airport screening systems have focused on international travel, although Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport recently indicated that it is planning to test facial recognition at the check–in counter for domestic flights.
September 4, 2020 – by Eric Weiss