Spirit Airlines has unveiled the “Best Airport Innovation” of 2021 is now in operation at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and is already streamlining the check-in experience.

Spirit’s Guests at ATL are seeing shorter check-in times thanks to Spirit’s automated self-bag drop with biometric photo-matching system, which represents a new paradigm for the U.S. airline industry. “Self-bag drop” systems allow for self-service so Guests can check bags directly without working with an agent.

These systems are widely used at major international airports and have been growing in acceptance in the U.S. The machines are equipped with a biometric photo-matching system that compares a scan of government-issued identification with a photo of the Guest for verification.

Following an initial testing period at ATL with both manual ID check and biometric opt-in, the solution will eliminate the need to hand government-issued identification to an agent when checking baggage.

Spirit developed the nation’s first biometric photo-matching solution for domestic air travel in 2019 with its partner Materna Intelligent Passenger Solutions (IPS) North America. Spirit was also the first to pursue combining it with automated self-bag drop capabilities to reduce face-to-face interaction.

The system is also operating at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), and it was recently recognized for two prestigious awards: The “2021 Best Airport Innovation” by the APEX/IFSA Awards, and also a Gold Stevie Award winner for The Best New Transportation Product or Service in The 2021 American Business Awards.

Here’s how the solution works:

• Guests start by tagging their own checked bags after checking in at the kiosk and then proceed to the self-bag drops.

• Guests are advised of the biometric option after scanning their boarding pass at the self-bag drop unit. They may either opt in and continue unassisted or opt out for agent-assisted service.

• Once the Guest opts in, the unit instructs them to scan their ID on the built-in hardware. • The unit compares its scan of the photo on the ID with a facial scan captured by its on-board camera, along with comparing ID information with the Guest’s reservation details. None of the data is transmitted to any government agency.

• A successful match initiates the rest of the bag check-in process. Guests are instructed to place their bags on the conveyor belt attached to the unit, which then scans the bags, weighs them, accepts payment for any additional services, and sends them straight into their airport’s checked baggage system without further action from the Guest.

“We’re on a mission to find innovative opportunities to continue improving every facet of the Guest experience, to include this investment in self-service so Guests spend less time in lobbies,” said Mike Byrom, Vice President of Airport Services for Spirit Airlines. “Our Guests are tech-savvy, and they appreciate options for controlling their travel journey. Another reason why the technology is advantageous for Guests is because it complements our staffing and helps preserve consistency of service.”

“Hartsfield-Jackson prides itself on its efficiency and safety,” said ATL general manager Balram Bheodari. “Through advances in innovation, this project is designed to increase both, and we welcome such efforts.” Spirit Guests currently check an annual daily average of about 1,000 bags at ATL, and each of which represents a face-to-face interaction that can be streamlined. Testing data shows the new procedure drops average processing time to just 70 seconds per Guest, reducing time spent at bag check by 30 percent.

Additionally, Guests can take advantage of the time savings and reduction in interactions whether they’re travelling domestically or internationally. The self-bag drop system uses software capable of analyzing key physical features on more than 50,000 forms of ID from nearly 200 countries that a Guest could potentially use when travelling in the United States. Combined with the units’ scanning hardware, the software confirms the authenticity of an ID and rejects fraudulent documents as Guests check their baggage.