Delta Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and a travel tech company called Pangiam have partnered up to bring facial recognition technology to the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).
As of next month, Delta SkyMiles members who use the Fly Delta app and have a TSA PreCheck membership will be able to simply look at a camera to present their “digital ID” and navigate the airport with greater ease. In this program, a customer’s identity is made up of a SkyMiles member number, passport number and Known Traveler Number.
Of course, TSA PreCheck enrollment is provided by three other companies…but I digress. (I’ll digress again in a minute.)
Forbes goes on to say that this navigation will be available at pre-airport check in (on the Fly Delta app), bag drop (via TSA PreCheck), security (again via TSA PreCheck), and the gate.
Incidentally, this illustrates how security systems from different providers build upon each other. Since I was an IDEMIA employee at the time that IDEMIA was the only company that performed TSA PreCheck enrollment, I was well aware (in my super-secret competitive intelligence role) how CLEAR touted the complementary features of TSA PreCheck in its own marketing.
Now I have no visibility into Pangiam’s internal discussions, but the company obviously has a long-term growth plan that it is executing.
I learned some fun facts during Eren Cello’s presentation to the Greater Ontario Business Council this morning, and filed those in my brain along with some other facts that I have collected over the years.
Cello is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Ontario International Airport in Ontario, California. Which, incidentally, is not in Canada.
Ontario International Airport in the 1980s and 1990s
I first became aware of Ontario International Airport in October 1983, when I flew in from Portland, Oregon for a job interview. Back in those days, you didn’t walk from the airplane straight into the terminal. Instead, you walked to a flight of stairs, went down the stairs, then walked across the runway to enter the terminal.
As Ontario and the surrounding area grew over the years, the then-owner of Ontario International Airport (Los Angeles World Airports) decided that an ambitious expansion of the airport was in order, including modern, multi-level terminals with check-in and baggage claim on the first floor, and the gates and shops on the second floor. Instead of renovating the existing terminal, LAWA decided to build two brand new terminals. These terminals were opened in 1998 and were designated “Terminal 2” and “Terminal 4.” As soon as traffic increased to the required level, LAWA would go ahead and build Terminal 3 between the two terminals.
And the old terminal, now “Terminal 1,” was closed.
It sounded like a sensible design and a sensible plan. What could go wrong?
Ontario International Airport in the 2000s and 2010s
Well, three years after Terminals 2 and 4 opened, 9/11 happened. This had two immediate effects.
First, the anticipated increase in passenger traffic needed to open Terminal 3 didn’t happen.
There were other alleged reasons for this which eventually led to the separation of Ontario International Airport from LAWA, but those are beyond the scope of this post. I wrote about them in a personal blog at the time; here’s an example.
Second, increased security meant that the second floors of Terminals 2 and 4 were accessible to passengers only.
The days of walking to the gate to send off departing passengers and greet arriving ones were gone forever.
And for all of those businesses that were located on the second floors of the two terminals, their customer base was cut dramatically, since non-ticketed individuals were confined to the first floors of the terminals. Until recently, those first floors only included the random vending machine to serve visitors. Only now is the situation starting to improve.
According to Cello, Ontario International Airport now serves 11 passenger airlines with nonstop flights to destinations in the United States, Mexico, Central America, and Asia.
The second most fascinating fun fact
But of all the fun facts I learned today, the second most fascinating fun fact was the reason why the international airlines are based in Terminal 2 rather than Terminal 4. No, it’s not because Southwest has so many flights in Terminal 4 that there is no room for anyone else. Actually, parts of Terminal 4 are closed; if you see a film with someone at Gate 412, you know the film is staged. See 15:08 of this video.
Southwest Airlines, of course, has a different operating model that doesn’t need a lot of wide-body jets.
International services in the future and in the past
Incidentally, there are both short-term and long-term plans to improve the facilities for international passengers, who currently can depart from Terminal 2 but have to arrive at a completely separate “international arrivals terminal” (reviews) and go through security there.
And if you’re wondering why Ontario International Airport doesn’t have optimum service for international passengers, the “international” in the airport’s designation merely means that there is at least one existing flight to an international destination. For Ontario, trans-Pacific cargo flights existed back in the 1940s, and the first passenger flight from an international destination occurred (according to Wikipedia) on May 18, 1946, when a Pacific Overseas Airlines flight arrived from Shanghai. (This was the Pacific Overseas Airlines based in Ontario, California, not the Pacific Overseas Airlines in Siam. The Ontario company appears to have only been in existence for a year or so.)
Of course, back in 1946, international passengers didn’t have great expectations. Leaving the plane by going down a flight of stairs was the normal mode of operations; none of this walking from the airplane straight into the airport building.
The MOST fascinating fun fact
Oh, and in case you’re wondering why the wide-body jet service is only the second most fascinating fun fact, I learned something else today.
The “Paw Squad” at Ontario International Airport has their own trading cards!
I live only five miles from an airport, but over forty miles away from a BIG airport—Los Angeles International Airport. And for those times in which I have to use LAX, it’s a bear to get there, and getting worse.
It used to be that I could take a shuttle to LAX, and the shuttle would get me there most of the time. But my former shuttle service quit operations a few years ago (although it looks like it’s kinda sorta coming back).
I’ve never really been a big fan of the gig economy rideshare services, and it turns out that the driver’s aren’t big fans of them either, despite the favorable legislation that has been enacted in California. Uber and Lyft are experiencing what is called a “driver shortage,” which in essence means that the work isn’t paying enough to get people to return to it post-COVID. In other words, there’s no driver shortage that can’t be overcome by jacking up payments to those people who work “with” Uber and Lyft. Of course if the drivers get more money, the rates for passengers go up dramatically. (In effect, the model is not self-sustaining. But I digress.)
Of course, the rideshare services have already done their damage to the taxi industry. Taxi drivers had a lot of costs that rideshare drivers didn’t have, such as medallion fees. And those costs continued even as the pandemic reduced the number of taxi passengers to near zero.
So with fewer shuttles, rideshares, and taxis, the best way to get to LAX is to drive your own car.
[O]fficials gathered on the outskirts of [Los Angeles International] airport to break ground on a $900-million Airport Metro Connector project that by 2024 will link the county’s fast-growing rail network to a people mover system being built at LAX.
Yes, friends, in only three short years it will be possible to take a train to one of the largest airports in the country.
Never mind that it’s taken seven years so far (the project was approved in 2014) with another three years to go. These things take time.
This not only makes it easy for Los Angeles Metro riders to get to the airport, but users of other services such as Metrolink can also get to the airport more easily. Even way out here in Ontario, I have two Metrolink stations within three miles of my home, which means that I can get to LAX via car, Metrolink, and Metro. (And yes, there’s the FlyAway bus, but Metro trains run much more frequently.)
And perhaps if the mass transit systems aren’t decimated by budget cuts between now and 2024, Southern Californians will actually be able to get to our biggest airport without having to get in a car.
Meanwhile, it’s still a little difficult to get to my local airport using mass transit, and the ideas to improve the situation are frankly rather boring.