Spirit Airlines Delivers America’s First Biometric Photo-Matching Check-In Experience - Identity Review - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank

Spirit Airlines, known for its ultra low-cost fares, became the first in the United States to implement a biometric photo-matching solution. In 2019, the Florida-based airline began to develop this biometric solution for domestic flights. A year later, Spirit Airlines launched this new biometric experience at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport. According to Spirit Airlines, the carrier is the first to make biometric check-in assistance available for domestic passengers.

Spirit Airlines’s new biometric protocol for domestic air travel begins with customers tagging their checked bags and then sending them to the aircraft through an automated self-bag drop unit featuring biometric photo-matching. Passengers can save time and reduce contact.

“We started looking at ways to improve the check-in experience in 2019 as part of our pledge to invest in the guest,” Spirit President and CEO Ted Christie said in a press release. “We knew early on that automation and biometric photo-matching would make the check-in process smoother. Now in 2020, 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.”

Spirit Airlines’s biometric bag drop with photo-matching. Source: Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines’s biometric bag drop with photo-matching. Source: Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines details the steps to their biometric photo-matching solution in their press release:

  1. An agent will manually verify guests’ identification before they approach the self-bag drop units. Spirit expects to eliminate this step once the TSA completes its evaluation and approval process.
  2. Guests are advised of the biometric option prior to scanning their boarding pass at the self-bag drop unit. They may either opt in and continue unassisted or opt out.
  3. Once the guest opts in, the unit instructs them to scan their ID on the built-in hardware.
  4. The unit compares its scan of the photo on the ID with a facial scan captured by its on-board sensors, along with comparing identification information with the guest’s reservation details. None of the data is transmitted to any government agency, nor does it leave Spirit’s possession at any time.
  5. A successful match initiates the rest of the automated bag check-in process. Guests are instructed to place their bags on the conveyor belt attached to the unit, which then scans the bags, weighs them, accepts payment for any additional optional services and sends them straight into their airport’s checked baggage system without any further action from the guest.

As the aviation industry continues to rebound, Spirit Airlines expects 90% of passengers to check their bags with their self-bag drop at the New York LaGuardia and Chicago O’Hare airports. Spirit Airlines’s data indicates that the photo-matching solution decreases the average processing time to just 70 seconds per passenger—a 30% reduction in time spent.


Roger Lu is an aviation enthusiast and analyst researching the implications of technology on global travel. He enjoys writing about how data is utilized in the context of aviation security and customer experience.

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