Spirit goes self-service and biometric

Launches check-in with biometrics at La Guardia and O'Hare

Spirit has started using a new check-in system at New York’s La Guardia Airport (LGA) and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) that uses increased self-service and biometrics.

Passengers use self-service to check-in, print and tag bags, and self-service bag drop which uses facial recognition biometrics.

The self bag drop kiosks come from German based Materna who began testing self-bag drop at LGA in January 2020.

Spirit worked with the TSA to develop the biometric photo-matching during check-in and ensuring its accuracy. The airline began testing the technology under TSA’s supervision in May.

Crucially, self-service is always about cutting costs for the airline by replacing people with self-service check-in and bag drop.

At the moment, Spirit passengers check around 1,000 bags daily at LGA and ORD. The airline believes passengers can do this themselves.

Spirit anticipates more than double that when air travel returns to normal, And they think that 90% of baggage will be via self bag drop.

How it works

  • An agent manually verifies the passenger ID before they use the self-bag drop
  • (Defeats the self-service bit, so Spirit expects to eliminate this step once the TSA completes its evaluation and approval process.)
  • The passenger is advised of the biometric check before using the kiosk.
  • If the passenger is happy to have their biometrics checked they start the process by scanning their boarding pass at the self-bag drop unit.
  • The passenger then scans their ID at the kiosk
  • The kiosk captures the live facial biometrics from the passenger (that’s the take the picture bit) and checks those biometrics with the those from the passenger ID
  • If the match is OK, the passsenger puts their bags on the conveyor belt attached to the kiosk. It scans the bags, weighs them, accepts payment for any additional optional services, and sends them into their airport’s baggage system.

Spirit says that none of the data is transmitted to any government agency and it does not leave Spirit’s possession at any time.


German based Materna is supplying the self-service bag drop system to Spirit.

Last month (July 2020), Materna installed more than 60 new self bag drop kiosks at Tokyo International Airport (HANEDA), Japan’s fastest growing airport by passenger numbers.

A JAL passenger using the Materna self bag drop system at Tokyo Haneda

Spirit started an automated self-service bag drop system at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. in June 2019.

N.B. Image credit: Spirit Airlines

Internet links

Spirit Airlines (NK)

Materna ips