China Southern Airlines became the country's first carrier to use facial recognition at an airport in Nanyang city, Henan province, an official said on Thursday.
The technology was put into use on Wednesday at the Jiangying Airport, reports Xinhua news agency.
Passengers did not have to get a boarding pass at check-in, as cameras verified their faces with their passport photos.
Also at the boarding gates, the system again confirmed their identity.
Hou Kan, the International Air Transport Association official, said e-tickets, e-invoices and facial recognition would simplify check-in. Chinese airlines are keen to introduce new systems for the convenience of air travellers.
Before the smart boarding system was launched, China Southern Airlines had notified passengers to download the airlines' app and upload a head shot before going to the airport for check-in.
The system verifies images on the app with passengers' photos and their real-time images at the airport and it takes just one second.
The airline developed the system with Baidu and GRG Banking.
Huang Wenqiang, General Manager of the airline's e-commerce division, said the smart-boarding system involved multiple encryption measures, which would prevent personal information theft.
The airline will apply the system later at Beijing's new airport and other airports, said Han Wensheng, Deputy General Manager of China Southern Airlines.
With a fleet of over 700 aircraft, China Southern operates more than 2,000 flights linking 224 destinations in over 40 countries and regions. Its passenger throughput reached 150 million in 2016.