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TSA PreCheck travelers will no longer have to show ID or boarding pass at certain airports

by Staff

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional information. It was originally published on Feb. 27, 2024.

As the Transportation Security Administration continues to implement its facial recognition technology at airports nationwide, United Airlines joins Delta Air Lines in offering TSA PreCheck customers a touchless ID experience during bag drop and security checkpoints. United is launching the service at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD).

TSA PreCheck’s Touchless Identity Solution allows select PreCheck travelers to avoid using a physical ID or boarding pass to verify their identity. Instead, travelers can get a quick facial scan when checking bags and passing through the PreCheck lane.

“TSA has partnerships across these various identity verification solutions, with Delta Air Lines Digital ID and United Airlines’ Touchless ID programs and American Airlines’ digital ID,” a TSA spokesperson said via email. “Passenger participation is voluntary. Passengers may request alternative identity verification if they do not wish to participate, and by doing so, passengers will not be delayed or lose their place in line.”

TSA PreCheck Touchless ID available for United flyers in Chicago and Los Angeles

As of February, United flyers at both ORD and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) can opt in for touchless ID.

“We recently launched TSA PreCheck® Touchless ID at O’Hare International Airport, which allows travelers* to seamlessly drop off their bags and make it quickly through security – all without having to present an ID,” a United spokesperson said via email. “United is the first airline to offer this technology at O’Hare.”

Thus, United PreCheck customers can now use their face to check their bag(s) and pass through PreCheck security, without showing their boarding pass or a driver’s license. Note that while United continues to test Touchless ID at O’Hare, travelers should still prepare to have their physical IDs checked after the facial scans.

United is currently testing both features at ORD. The security checkpoint feature is also available for United travelers at LAX, where the bag drop shortcut is expected to be available by March, per a United spokesperson.

“For bag drop shortcut with Touchless ID – when customers arrive at the airport, they can head to a bag drop shortcut kiosk where their photo is taken and their bag tag will print,” the spokesperson said. “For TSA PreCheck Touchless ID at security – when they arrive at the airport, they can head to the TSA PreCheck security checkpoint where their photo is taken.”

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Per an airline spokesperson, the airline expects ORD’s test run to be implemented fully by May 2024. After that, travelers will no longer have to show their IDs.

“We plan to continue rolling out TSA PreCheck Touchless ID at our hubs this year,” confirmed the spokesperson.

To use TSA PreCheck Touchless ID at ORD and LAX, travelers must be enrolled in PreCheck, upload their passports to their MileagePlus account and be on a single-passenger reservation, per the airline. When checking in for a flight on the United app, travelers can opt into the program by authorizing the airline to use their facial scan as identification.

UNITED.COM

Upon arrival at the airport, head to the bag drop shortcut area. There, an agent will scan your face at a designated TSA PreCheck Touchless ID kiosk before printing your bag tags. You’ll find the Touchless ID lane next to the regular PreCheck lane.

Note this program is restricted to travelers 18 and older. It is not available for passengers using an airport wheelchair or traveling with a pet.

Delta Digital ID: The same program under a different name

TSA PreCheck’s Touchless Identity Solution is also available for Delta flyers at four airports under its Digitial ID program. This is an alternative screening procedure that uses the passport information saved in each passenger’s SkyMiles profile to match the photo taken at security checkpoints.

After deploying the first-ever dedicated PreCheck lobby bag drop at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in 2021, Delta has expanded its touchless bag drop and security offerings for PreCheck members at LAX, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA).

Like United passengers, Delta PreCheck travelers wishing to participate can opt in via the airline’s app. Using the Fly Delta app, they can upload their passport and Known Traveler Number. Once enrolled — either by opting in on their SkyMiles profile or during mobile check-in — the customer should look for a green Digital ID badge on their boarding pass.

CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

This same badge will direct customers to dedicated bag drop and security lines at participating airports.

TPG managing editor Clint Henderson used his Digital ID two times recently at LGA. You’ll note the Digital ID badge on the screenshots of his boarding passes below.

“The agents working at the TSA PreCheck and Clear lines told me to use a new special lane for biometrics that allowed me to skip ahead of both the regular PreCheck and the separate Clear lanes,” he said. “After one minute, the TSA agent waved me over. I simply showed my face in front of a camera, and the agent told me to go ahead to the screening machines. There was no wait.”

Other airlines are joining in

In addition to Delta and United, other carriers — like American Airlines — are implementing their own versions of PreCheck’s Touchless Identity Solution.

American’s Mobile ID offers facial recognition for PreCheck security at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA); it also allows travelers Mobile ID entry at the Admirals Club Lounge, so they don’t have to wait in line.

This spring, Alaska Airlines is expected to implement new bag drop machines at some of their hub airports, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

“The machine will scan your face, government-issued I.D., and bags. From there, it will take your bag(s) on a belt to be loaded onto the aircraft,” said a statement from the airline last year. “The process takes less than a couple minutes and will have you on your way to security.”

The agency is currently piloting its first passenger self-service screening system at Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, where PreCheck passengers can pass through security checkpoints with “minimal to no assistance” from TSA via facial recognition.

“Many passengers prefer an experience that they can complete with minimal interaction with a Transportation Security Officer (TSO). The prototype systems currently being explored can provide an experience similar to self-checkout at grocery stores or self-tagging checked baggage,” said TSA. “The self-service screening concept is intended to improve the customer experience without sacrificing security and would allow TSOs to be reallocated to other areas of the screening operation.”

In addition to minimizing contact with TSA officers, the goal of these programs, along with the computed tomography X-ray systems at 200-plus security checkpoints, is to “enhance security” while managing increasing passenger volumes.

“TSA anticipates that passenger volumes will continue to increase at a rate faster than TSA and airports can accommodate the need for additional Transportation Security Officers and space for checkpoint operations,” the spokesperson said.

Bottom line

“Further development with facial recognition technology will continue to occur organically as TSA deploys technology to checkpoints nationwide, as states adopt mobile driver’s licenses, and additional airports and airlines recognize an opportunity to serve their frequent flyer members and other travelers with innovative identity verification technologies,” per the TSA spokesperson. “TSA is laying the groundwork with DHS, industry partners, and other stakeholders to ensure that biometric technology and digital identity plays a role in and facilitates an improved passenger experience.”

As more airlines and airports implement some version of Touchless ID, with TSA continuing to deploy their biometric and computed tomography technologies, travelers will continue to notice a more advanced TSA security experience.

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