Air Travel: AA Raises Bag Fees, Delta’s “Biometric Terminal”

A facial recognition scanner at Delta's new "biometric terminal."

A number of airline policy and process updates lead this week’s air travel news.

American Airlines reports that it is raising the price of a first and second check bag by $5 each, to $30 for a first checked bag and $40 for a second checked bag, effective September 21 for travel in the United States and other destinations in North America and the Caribbean. Some customers will continue to be eligible for free checked bags, such as certain loyalty members and cardholders, or customers in First, Business and Premium Economy classes. The previous bag fees will still apply to tickets purchased prior to this change.

In technology news, this week Delta announced plans for what it’s billing as the first biometric terminal in the United States. Developed in partnership with U.S. Customers and Border Protection (CBP), the project will kick off at Terminal F at the airline’s Atlanta hub. Starting later this year, customers flying direct to an international destination will have the option of using facial recognition technology from curb to gate, including during check in at self-service lobby kiosks; at lobby counters where customers can drop checked bags; at TSA checkpoints; and when boarding a flight departing any gate at Terminal F. Additionally, international travelers arriving to the U.S. will be able to use facial recognition technology will be able to use it to go through CBP processing. Delta said that the project would make the check-in and arrival experience at the airport more seamless. Customers who do not wish to participate will still be able to move through the terminal normally.

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In other airline policy news, this week United Airlines updated its boarding process with an eye toward reducing the time needed to get on the plane. The airline has reduced the number of boarding lanes from five to two, and it is now allowing those who use the United app to get alerts when boarding has started. Eventually, United says it plans to offer text message alerts as well.

In flight news, this week KLM announced plans to expand into Las Vegas starting in 2019. Starting June 6, the airline will operate Amsterdam – Las Vegas flights on Fridays and Sundays on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. A third weekly flight will be launched on Tuesdays starting July 2, 2019.

Eurowings also announced new flights to Las Vegas this week, from Düsseldorf. Operated on Airbus A330 or A340 aircraft, the new flights will begin July 3, 2019, departing Las Vegas on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and returning to Düsseldorf on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Also this week Brussels Airlines announced plans to add additional destinations in Africa this winter. The airline will fly to Banjul, The Gambia, daily instead of four times per week. At the same time, the airline said it will pull out of Mumbai for economic reasons. Those flights officially end January 6.

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