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American Airlines Testing Touchless Check-In

Envoy Embraer E140s operating for American Airlines at LaGuardia. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

American Airlines has revealed a new touchless check-in process at its base at Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport, World Airline News reports. The process is being used on select international flights and relies on biometrics – namely a face scanner – to verify the passenger’s identity with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“While fewer customers have traveled over the last year, our team used their time to go into overdrive developing, testing and implementing new ways to give customers more confidence and comfort when they travel,” said Julie Rath, Vice President of Customer Experience and Reservations for the airline. “We’re ready to welcome customers back onboard with thoughtful, touchless technology that puts more control in their hands and makes their journeys more comfortable.”

Rath added that the goal of the changes is to provide travelers a more straightforward airport experience.

“We really want to have an easy customer experience when customers can come back for travel,” she said, per Good Morning America. “Through the pandemic, many customers stopped traveling. They’re coming back to travel, though there’s more complexities, and we just want to make it easier for them.”

American has been testing touch-free technologies at a number of points throughout the airport for some time. Last year, it launched trials of a touch-free baggage system in Dallas and at Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport in which customers can use biometric technologies to drop bags instead of using government IDs or boarding passes.

The airline has plans to trial touchless technologies at the entrances to its Admirals Club in Dallas later this year. The lounges already offer touch-free newspapers and magazines, which can be accessed using QR codes, on American’s website or using Admirals Club WiFi. Touchless ordering in Admirals Club lounges is also in the works.

An American 767 at a remote stand in Dallas. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Parker Davis)

As passengers return to the skies, many will still be concerned about getting sick. Though the coronavirus is most often spread through the air, there is some evidence that it can also be spread through frequent contact with surfaces, like screens on check-in devices, that have also been used by an infected person. Even after the pandemic, the airline is suspecting that passengers will be more likely to be concerned about hygiene in general for some time and may want to avoid common surfaces.

Using biometrics like face scanners reduces the use of shared surfaces, allowing people more peace of mind during the travel process. While passengers may need to briefly remove masks to scan their faces, it is unlikely the masks will be off long enough to have close contact with other passengers.

Reducing coronavirus risks are especially important as countries are cautious about which flyers may be carrying the coronavirus across borders. This is one less risk factor that health officials will need to worry about from incoming passengers.

American is far from the only airline testing touchless systems throughout their operations. Delta Air Lines is testing a touchless on-board payment system in which passengers will be able to pay for onboard services without needing to swipe a credit card or hand it to a crewmember, limiting close interactions between the two and, once again, cutting down on shared touch surfaces.

United Airlines is testing a system that will virtually connect passengers with customer service agents at the airport rather than requiring them to speak face-to-face, eliminating the possibility of close contact between people.

American’s announcement comes as passenger counts are reaching their highest levels since the coronavirus pandemic began – the TSA scanned 1.35 million passengers in one day last week, a record for pandemic travel. American says it is seeing a surge in travel as more travelers are vaccinated, and airlines around the world are optimistic about a potential recovery during the second half of 2021.

“We’re really optimistic for the summer,” Rath said. “The last three weeks have been our best booking weeks since the pandemic started.”

Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are cautioning against travel to prevent asymptomatic carriers from bringing the coronavirus across state lines or into crowded places.

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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