Airlines are under increasing pressure to do something -- anything -- to improve the customer experience. Delta says it may have a way to do that.
The airline said it will test facial recognition technology at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this summer. The technology will be employed at four self-serve bag drops, allowing passengers to check their bags themselves.
One of the stations, for international travelers, will be equipped with the facial recognition technology, matching passengers with their passport photos.
"We expect this investment and new process to save customers time," said Gareth Joyce, a senior vice president at Delta. "And, 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."
Airports are becoming increasingly automated, and Delta sees this as just the next, natural step in that process. Previously, the airline began attaching radio frequency identification technology (RFID)tags to luggage, to keep better track of it.
"We're making travel easier than ever for our customers and continuing to deliver a leading customer experience," Joyce said.
The effort comes at a time when airlines are under pressure from passengers and policymakers. After the forcible removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight April 9, almost every instance of passenger angst aboard a commercial aircraft is recorded and spread across social media.
For its part, Delta said it will collect passenger feedback during the Minnesota trial and run process analyses to make sure this addition of technology not only saves the airline money, but improves the overall customer experience.
Delta says it believes it will. It cites studies it says show that self-service bag drops have the potential to process twice as many customers per hour.