The Delta program comes amid the expansion of services aimed at speeding up security screening, including Clear. Earlier this month, Hartsfield-Jackson completed a complex and lengthy project to upgrade screening equipment that led to reduced capacity and abnormally long lines at the main domestic checkpoint.
In the Delta Digital ID line, passengers are quickly processed at the entrance to the screening area using facial recognition instead of a driver license or ID check.
Delta Digital ID in the last few weeks expanded to the airline’s hubs at New York’s LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports and at Los Angeles International Airport, in addition to Atlanta and Detroit.
Delta is also working to launch a second lane in the domestic terminal early next year as well as one in the international terminal. The timing is dependent on getting the equipment delivered and in place.
The current single Delta Digital ID line at the South security checkpoint sometimes reaches capacity, and there’s no space for an overflow line — so some customers are turned away during busy periods.
To use a Delta Digital ID line requires a TSA PreCheck membership, a SkyMiles membership, adding passport information and a Known Traveler Number to your Delta profile ― and opting in through the Fly Delta app.
More than 90% of Delta’s gold, platinum and diamond-level Medallion SkyMiles members qualify to use Delta Digital ID, said Greg Forbes, Delta’s managing director of airport experience. However, many have not opted in.
Some consumers and privacy advocates have raised concerns about increasing use of facial recognition. Delta said it adheres to passenger privacy and security protocols.
In addition to using Delta Digital ID at the security checkpoint, it’s also an option to check bags at the Delta counters in Atlanta, Detroit, New York and Los Angeles.
“People try it first at security, and that’s their introduction,” Forbes said. Facing long lines at the checkpoint, they may weigh whether to go into a Clear or PreCheck line. Then they may see the newer option of Delta Digital ID and decide to take the plunge “because it appears to be so much faster. And it turns out it is, and then you’re sold,” he said. They may use it at bag drop after that, he said.
In Atlanta, there’s also a dedicated Delta PreCheck bag drop lobby on the lower level of Terminal South, which uses facial recognition for self bag drop and is popular among frequent travelers in Atlanta.
Delta temporarily used facial recognition for international flight check-ins during a trial period in 2018. Now, plans are instead to launch the Delta Digital ID system next year at the international terminal.
The airline also plans to expand Delta Digital ID to more hubs next year.
That makes Delta Digital ID a more viable option — free to those who already have a TSA PreCheck membership and passport — to get through security lines quickly. TSA PreCheck costs $78 or $85 to enroll for a membership that lasts five years.
One other popular option for airport security that costs significantly more for most travelers is a Clear membership, priced at $189 a year.
The popularity of Clear means the Clear line in Atlanta is often longer than the Delta Digital ID line. However, Clear lines are available at many more airports than Delta Digital ID is — and you can use it when flying on any airline, while Delta Digital ID is only valid when flying Delta.
Airport security line options
- Standard security screening is open to all airline travelers. At Hartsfield-Jackson, standard security screening is at the Main checkpoint and North checkpoint.
- TSA PreCheck offers expedited screening, with the ability to keep on your shoes, belt and jacket. The cost to enroll in PreCheck is as low as $78 for five years. It costs $70 to renew online. At Hartsfield-Jackson, PreCheck is at the South checkpoint.
- Clear operates specially designated security lines, and sells memberships for $189 a year, with discounts for Delta SkyMiles members. Clear members at the checkpoint can verify their identities through an iris scan or fingerprints, though the company is shifting to facial recognition technology. The Clear line at the South checkpoint is for PreCheck-enrolled Clear members. The Clear line for non-PreCheck Clear members going through standard security has moved to the Lower North checkpoint.
- Delta Digital ID is available to those flying Delta who qualify and opt in and is only at Atlanta, Detroit, New York and Los Angeles airports. To use Delta Digital ID requires a TSA PreCheck membership, a SkyMiles membership, adding passport information and a Known Traveler Number to your Delta profile ― and opting in for free through the Fly Delta app. At Hartsfield-Jackson, Delta Digital ID is at the South checkpoint.
- At the South checkpoint, there’s another option to verify your ID in the regular PreCheck line. Georgia this year began offering the option of using a digital version of your driver’s license or state ID on your iPhone or Android phone digital wallet at TSA PreCheck security checkpoints, including the South checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson. Even with a digital ID, travelers still need to carry their original physical copy of a driver license or ID.