back to article What could go wrong? Delta to use facial recog to automate bag drop-off

Delta Air Lines plans to deploy four self-service bag drop machines at Minneapolis–St Paul International Airport this summer, one of which will include a facial recognition system to match those depositing bags with their passport photos. Delta senior veep of airport customer service and cargo Garth Joyce, in a canned remark, …

  1. Mike Shepherd

    ...agents will be freed up to...deliver more proactive and thoughtful customer service


    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: ...agents will be freed up to...deliver more proactive and thoughtful customer service

      Taking the lead from United Airlines more ground staff have now been freed up to provide for better 'customer relocation services'.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    Farcial recognition?

    I can see that working well with a plane load of beardy hipsters with the same plastic samurai haircut and mirrored glasses.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Farcial recognition?

      I figure Delta just wants another excuse for why your bags are in Atlanta and not your destination.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Farcial recognition?

        And those who wanted to go to Atlanta find that their bags are in Antayla (turkey)

        There is another issue relating to this move that does not seem to have been thought of.

        Were not airlines supposed to as questions such as

        "Did you pack the bag yourself?"

        "Are you carrying anything for someone other than yourself"



        I can imagine that in order to carry this out and following the becnmark set by United, a robotic voice will ask you this and if you say No, a Cyborg will appear and after tasering you (SOP) they will cart you away to Feral Prison facing a 5-10 stretch.

        But given the rulings about electronic devices on planes, won't Airports soon become the ghost towns of the 21st century?

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Farcial recognition?

          They already do this, you get asked these questions on a screen. This is just using facial recognition instead of the passport/ticket/ID scanning that happens already. I guess on international flights they will still do the passport scanning.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Farcial recognition?

            I'm going to Atlanta. My twin brother is heading to Dallas.

  3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Will it still recognize you...

    ...if you arrive with less teeth than you departed with?

  4. Eddy Ito

    Time to sit out front of the airport selling masks. I figure a set of three would be plenty with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Guy Fawkes. Oh how we'll LOL.

    "CBP sees potential for the technology to transform the travel process, provided privacy issues can be addressed," CBP's spokesperson said, citing the opportunity to reduce the need to produce documents while traveling.

    Spokesperson? Sounds more like a stand up comic.

  5. iRadiate

    If face recognition lets me into a country then why can't it be used for dropping backs. Surely the same system. Put your passport into a reader. Look at the camera. Wait for green light and place your bags in the carousel. Red light means you wait for an assistant.

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So is speads up the baggage drop off... yet check in and security are the biggest time waster. I tend to agree that this is more about bottom line and fewer employees than "customer service". You still have to be there 2-3 hours early for your flight... I can remember being told to get to the airport 30 minutes before a flight and still having time to spare, but this was before 9/11 and all the security theatre.

  7. Raja

    Delta stands for DEliver Luggage To Atlanta. Once there it will get stolen. So there you have it, DELTA will lose your luggage for you. Good luck getting it back.

  8. Infernoz Bronze badge

    False Positives could be nasty, and false negatives annoying!

    To stop this it needs to be multi-factor identification for better validation and redundancy for fuzzy matching.

  9. vir

    I guarantee this will end up taking longer when you have someone in front of you using this for the first time while running late for you flight after having slept in and sprinted into the terminal from the parking lot at 5:15 in the morning.

  10. twistsol

    The RFID tags sure were helpful in letting me know that my bag was safely on its way to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I wasn't.

    1. mathew42

      At least that way you can chat with the friendly flight attendant about the issue instead fo wasting time at the baggage carousel hoping your bag might appear :-).

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      The airline phone apps tell you where your bags have been scanned anyway. Mine showed my bags made it to the internal US flight when I didn't (due to CBP delays) and they were NOT offloaded. I didn't think the plane could fly with bags if the passenger was not aboard, but I was wrong.

  11. harmjschoonhoven


    Why not chip all the passengers? They do it with cats. They never complain.

    1. MrZoolook

      Re: RFID

      Why not link it to your FarceBork profile, where your friends can post a thumb-up to confirm the bag is yours?

      There are some things that shouldn't even get past the anonymous suggestion box at corporate HQ.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: RFID

        "There are some things that shouldn't even get past the anonymous suggestion box at corporate HQ."

        Suggestion box? No way.

        I smell consultards!

    2. Brenda McViking

      Re: RFID

      They effectively do. It's just said chip is in your passport, not subdermal.

      Having used facial recognition a lot at UK airports, I can confirm it is woeful in terms of reliability.

      Heck, I had a photo taken a mere 3 days prior to using one (brand new passport, fast-tracked) and it still wasn't capable of recognising me 2 times in 3. (I know what I'm doing, I'm not a clueless first timer who can't understand that they need to keep still for more than 3 seconds to let the system process what it is seeing)

      I'm not really sure why there is a specific need to verify a passenger against their passport though for a baggage check. The authentication of the passport should be enough - as the passenger will be verified against the passport prior to boarding, and if they aren't, the bag doesn't fly anyway. So why even bother wasting time with an 18% unreliable system when you can do away with it completely? Match passport (or PNR, or e-ticket number) to bag and be done with it. (Like we do all over Europe.)

      Oh yeah, but of course I'm forgetting that if that were the case, the NSA wouldn't get an update of your particulars and several new photographic angles of you every time you fly...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RFID

      We had a cat that deeply objected going to the vet for anything. Probably from an earlier visit where he lost some things precious to him.

  12. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Passport pictures are what people really look like."

    -- Liner notes on Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense album

  13. EveryTime

    I don't see the reason for the snark.

    Interacting less with the check-in clerks will certainly improve the customer experience.

    I've often had a nice word or two while efficiently checking a bag. But I've forgotten all of those times. I do remember the many times pointlessly waiting in line while the few clerks are all taking ten minutes per passenger re-booking tickets on 13 leg flights to East Timor. Then when I get to the front my 30 second check-in is delayed by being scolded for checking a bag two minutes late.

    I loved the improvement when the airlines switched to check-in kiosks when flying with no bags. I prefer to fly at less busy times. All of the kiosks remain open, while there might be only a minimal check-in staff.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "freed up to seek out travelers and deliver more proactive and thoughtful customer service"

    Would you like fries with that?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      we see a future where Delta agents will be freed up to seek...

      alternative employment?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    he says: a future where Delta agents will be freed up to seek out travelers

    he means:

    a future where Delta agents will be freed up to seek out other forms of employement available to non-AIs

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    improve the customer experience

    read: improve their bottom line

  17. andrewmonaghan

    self-ish service

    Takes the phrase "unexpected item in the bagging area" to a whole new level!

  18. TRT Silver badge

    Don't they already use...

    facial recognition to wave you through e.g. Stansted? I seem to recall having to wait in a massive long line just to grimace at a webcam that tried to match my face to me 9 years ago, only to fail and have the border chimp watching two lines wave me through. Compare that to Norway's log cabin at the edge of the runway, which deplaned and processed the whole lot in about 10 minutes flat...

  19. Korev Silver badge

    Human accuracy?

    A NIST study [PDF] published in March found that facial recognition systems in a boarding gate scenario misidentify 6 per cent of the people in a 480-person data set, and 18 per cent of people in a 48,000-person data set.

    This figure isn't useful unless you compare the machine to the human accuracy rate.

    Two former colleagues (one male, t'other female) were travelling and managed to get their passports mixed up at checkin. They let her on the plane with his passport, but decided that he didn't look like a woman!

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