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Could facial recognition be the future of airport security? Delta Air Lines is testing it out

Airlines using facial recognition
Airlines using facial recognition technology to reduce wait times ahead of holiday travel season 03:14

Delta Air Lines expects 2.5 million passengers to move through the Atlanta airport during the Thanksgiving period. Ahead of the holiday rush, Delta is testing new facial recognition technology to reduce the time it takes between arriving at the airport and getting passengers in their seats.  

The company's senior vice president for customer experience, Ranjan Goswami, said the facial recognition technology has been years in the making and will speed up travel. 

While major U.S. carriers like United and American Airlines are piloting biometric ID checks at limited airport locations, Delta wants to be the first to offer full curb-to-gate security centered around facial recognition

Goswami took CBS News' Errol Barnett inside the pilot program that will soon be available to members of Delta's Loyalty Program SkyMiles, who have also uploaded passport details and have TSA Pre-check.

"As soon as you take your mask off it takes the photograph. It's now using that image that it just had with your passport number," Goswami told Barnett. "It's pinging the customs database, making sure there's an image match there. And now here we go — our bag tag will print." 

If the technology is successful, it will reduce the need for agents while streamlining check-in. Delta is partnering with the TSA, so passengers could get through security lines quicker.  

Jessica Mayle, a TSA spokesperson, said someone would be able to be verified and move through security in about 6 to 10 seconds. 

Fliers can also use their biometrics at the gate, with no boarding pass or ID necessary. Byron Merritt, Delta's vice president of brand experience design, said the biggest hurdle will be speed. 

Travel analyst Henry Hartevedlt said Delta is testing this to see how people will react and fliers are overwhelmingly willing to try it. 

"Our research among U.S. airline passengers show four out of five would share personal or biometric data with an airline they regularly fly to save time," Hartevedlt said.  

This will be a gradual roll-out. Almost half the Delta gates at Concourse T at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Concourse A in Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport will get this technology. 

For travelers fearful of sharing their travel face, Delta said the airline immediately destroys any images taken and passengers can choose not to opt-in.

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