Airport News

Airport News

Virgin Atlantic staff will use wearable Google Glass and Sony Smartwatch technology to serve passengers at Heathrow Airport under a new pilot scheme that launched last week.

Virgin Atlantic staff in the airline’s Upper Class Wing in Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3 have been equipped with either Google Glass or a Sony SmartWatch 2 to check-in passengers for flights. Additionally, staff will be able to update passengers on their latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination and translate any foreign language information.

In future, the technology could also tell Virgin Atlantic staff their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences – to provide a better and more personalised service. During the six-week pilot, the benefits to consumers and the business will be evaluated ahead of a potential wider rollout in the future.

The pilot scheme follows recent research carried out by Virgin Atlantic on 10,000 airline passengers that found while the number of people travelling by plane has increased considerably, the experience has lessened.

Virgin Atlantic, in collaboration with air-transport IT specialist SITA, is the first in the industry to test how the latest wearable technology, including Google Glass, can be used to enhance customers’ travel experiences and improve efficiency.

The wearable technology is integrated to both a purpose-built dispatch app built by SITA and the Virgin Atlantic passenger service system. The dispatch app manages all task allocation and concierge availability. It pushes individual passenger information directly to the assigned concierge’s smart glasses or watch just as the passenger arrives at the Upper Class Wing.

Dave Bulman, director of IT, Virgin Atlantic, said, “While it’s fantastic that more people can now fly than ever before, the fact that air travel has become so accessible has led to some of the sheen being lost for many passengers. Our wearable technology pilot with SITA makes us the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve the customer experience. We are upholding Virgin Atlantic’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience.”

In 2013, SITA’s technology research group, SITA Lab, began testing and comparing wearable technology devices and developing applications for airlines and airports.

Jim Peters, chief technology officer, SITA said, “2014 is shaping up to be the breakout year for wearable technology, and Virgin Atlantic is the first to bring its vision to reality. At SITA Lab, we’ve taken the lead in testing and trialing this new technology for the air transport industry, and it’s been fantastic to work with Virgin Atlantic to launch the industry’s first wearable technology application.”