In a pilot scheme that starts today, Virgin Atlantic passengers will be the first air travelers to experience the benefits of Google Glass and Sony Smartwatch technology as they arrive at London Heathrow airport. Concierge staff in the airline’s Upper Class Wing will be using wearable technology. The wearable technology is being introduced as Virgin Atlantic publishes the results of a major study of 10,000 airline passengers from across the world on the future of air travel; the results show that as the number of people traveling by plane has sky-rocketed in recent decades, 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 best be used to enhance customers’ travel experiences and improve efficiency; airline staff are equipped with either Google Glass or a Sony SmartWatch 2, which 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.
From the minute Upper Class passengers arrive to the Heathrow airport, Virgin Atlantic staff wearing the technology will start the check-in process. At the same time, 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. During the six-week pilot, the benefits to consumers and the business will be evaluated ahead of a potential wider roll-out in the future.
In other technological advancements with SITA, Virgin Atlantic is testing iBeacon with its Upper Class passengers at Heathrow, a new low-powered Bluetooth transmitter that can notify nearby iOS Apple devices of nearby services, discounts and updates on their flight boarding schedules.
In 2013, SITA’s strategic technology research group, SITA Lab, began testing and comparing wearable technology devices and developing applications for airlines and airports.