EDMAs 2021

Spirit Airlines begins testing agent-less check-in

Tyrone Stewart

Spirit Airlines is hoping to make the flight check-in experience more streamlined and suitable for the COVID-19 world we’re living in with the introduction of biometric photo-matching technology.

The low-cost US carrier has installed a redesigned ticket lobby at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International. The system requires travellers to tag their own checked in bags and then use an automated self-bag drop unit, equipped with biometric photo-matching, to send the bags to the plane.

The process will still require at least one agent to manually verify the identity of passengers, these guests will then have the option of opting into using the self-bag drop unit or continuing through the traditional route with human interaction. Those who choose the self-bag drop will be instructed to scan their ID on one of the new machines and wait as the unit scans the ID and scans the guest’s face to see if they’re a match. A successful match then initiates the automated bag check-in process with the conveyor belt and the stress of hoping your bag isn’t over the weight limit.

Spirit became the ‘first’ US airline to begin developing biometric photo-matching for domestic air travel in 2019, with such technology having only previously been available to international travellers.

“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. “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.”

Of course, the process is already pretty common in major airports outside of the US. For example, in the UK, Gatwick Airport teamed up with EasyJet back in May 2018 to introduce the nation’s first end-to-end biometrics trial.