Spirit adding biometrics to minimize interactions between passengers and staff

Sep 3, 2020

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Spirit Airlines may be best known for its low, unbundled fares and endless upsells (including a TPG favorite, the Big Front Seat), but now the ultra-low-cost carrier’s looking to boost its reputation as a technology leader, with what it’s calling “the check-in experience of the future.”

Now available at Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and New York LaGuardia (LGA), the carrier’s new lobby areas use biometric photo-matching to help speed up the check-in process. After scanning their ID and agreeing to a face scan, passengers can use Spirit’s kiosks to confirm their identity, allowing them to check in their own bags without an agent’s assistance.

Spirit says it’s the first U.S. airline to employ this technology for domestic passengers. For the time being, agents do need to verify a passenger’s ID before they can access the scanners, but the airline hopes to eliminate that step once it secures TSA approval, which the airline expects soon.

Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines.
Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines.

Spirit has been testing the new solution with international travelers the past few months, and now it’s ready to roll it out to domestic customers as well. Spirit’s new check-in tech is now available at LaGuardia and O’Hare, with the carrier hoping to offer it at other airports soon.

According to Spirit, “Guests check around 1,000 bags daily right now at ORD and LGA, each of which represents a face-to-face interaction that can be eliminated. Spirit anticipates handling more than double that volume when demand for air travel returns to normal, 90% of which the airline expects to process via self-bag drop.”

Read more: Everything you should know before flying Spirit Airlines

In addition to reduced interactions between passengers and staff, the new system has proven to save time, since travelers don’t need to wait for an employee to wander over and process their checked bag. According to Spirit, the new bag-drop process takes an average of 70 seconds per customer, which it says is 30% faster.

Currently, Spirit’s tech just covers the check-in process — you’ll still need to scan your boarding pass at the gate. Still, biometric boarding will likely follow at some point, as the technology has already proven effective with some international flights, including those operated by American, Delta and JetBlue.

Featured photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines.




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