Marriott Is Trialling Facial Recognition Check-In (And I Think I’ve Spotted A Flaw)

a hand holding a card may receive commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. does not include all card companies or all available card offers.

Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission which helps contribute to the running of the site – I’m very grateful to anyone who uses these links but their use is entirely optional. The compensation does not impact how and where products appear on this site and does not impact reviews that are published. For more details please see the advertising disclosure found at the bottom of every page.

Sometimes I think that airlines and hotels have too much time and/or money on their hands and the news last week that Marriott is trialling facial recognition software to help with the check-in process does little to quash that opinion.

First let’s get Marriott’s announcement out of the way before I go on to share my thoughts:

The Joint Venture of Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA) and Marriott International (NASDAQ: MAR) today announced it is spearheading Marriott International’s facial recognition check-in pilot with Fliggy, Alibaba’s travel service platform. This announcement comes hot off the heels of the joint venture’s recent global rollout of the Post Post Pay (PPP) functionality and redesigned storefront on Fliggy, to continually elevate the travel experience for tech-savvy Chinese travelers.

The two hotels where this technology is being trialled are the Hangzhou Marriott Hotel Qianjiang and Sanya Marriott Hotel Dadonghai Bay but the plan is to eventually roll out this technology across all Marriott properties worldwide.

Marriott says that check-in usually takes “at least 3 minutes” (longer during busier times) and that the new technology can reduce check-in time to under a minute.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  • The guest scans their ID
  • A picture of the guest is taken
  • The guest inputs their contact details
  • The device dispenses room key cards after the guest’s identity and reservation are confirmed.

a hand holding a card to a digital screen

The beginning part of this process reminds me of the Global Entry machines I use on a frequent basis at airports all across the US and that leads me to my first question – why does the guest have to input his/her contact details if the software has already scanned their ID and has performed a facial recognition check?

The Global Entry machines seem to know who I am after they scan my ID and take my picture and they don’t ask me to input any of my personal details…so why can’t these machines do the same?

If these machines are meant to speed up the check-in process shouldn’t they be limiting the amount of inputting the guest has to do?

Also, how is this going to work for rooms with more than one guest? Are all guests going to have to take it in turn to have their faces scanned, have their ID’s scanned and input their contact details?

Can you imagine the chaos when a family of 4 turns up?!

I understand that Marriott wants to speed up the check-in process while, at the same time, preventing guests from using other people’s IDs and information to check-in to rooms they’re not technically booked into…. but this doesn’t seem to be the answer….at least not in its current guise.

Bottom Line

If facial recognition software is Marriott’s preferred way forward then it needs to be a lot more efficient that this. Guests should be able to step up to the machine, scan their ID, have their face scanned, confirm their reservation details with one press on the screen (the details should appear automatically on the screen) and then have their keys dispensed – there should be no need for any guest input whatsoever.

If you’ve ever stood in line for an ATM or an automated check-in machine at an airport you already know how incredibly slow some people can be when presented with a screen which requires a bit of interaction from the human…..and ATM’s and airport kiosks aren’t exactly complicated or new.

Minimising human interaction is key to speeding up almost everything in this world and yet this new technology being trialled by Marriott doesn’t appear to have taken that into consideration.

Unless Marriott addresses this before rolling out the machines worldwide I’m prepared predict that they’ll turn out to be a colossal waste of time and money.