Virgin Atlantic Airways passengers were the first air travellers to experience the benefits of pioneering Google Glass and Sony SmartWatch technology in a six-week trial that began in February. The innovative pilot scheme saw staff in the airline’s Upper Class Wing at London Heathrow Airport use wearable technology to deliver a high-tech and personalised customer service.
Passengers were greeted by name upon arrival at the Upper Class Wing and the airline agent was able to start the check-in process immediately using the innovative technology. Staff were also able to provide up-to-the-minute information such as flight updates and destination information using the smart glasses and watches.
Tim Graham, IT Innovation and Development Manager, Virgin Atlantic Airways, explained that the trial was run independently of existing technology, and a web application was used to allocate jobs to customer service agents. “Agents used a mixture of Google Glass and Sony SmartWatches, but the data sent to each type of device was the same,” he commented. “Dispatchers could verify that jobs had been accepted and completed.”
Graham added that it was a slick process, and the devices “became part of the experience”. Indeed, customers were a lot more accepting of wearable technology than the airline initially anticipated. “They love seeing new technology being introduced where it adds value to their experience,” he said. “It’s a great way to engage them in a completely different way.”
After an initial adjustment period, staff found the devices comfortable to wear, and reported feeling empowered to provide an even better service to customers. Welcoming the reduction in paperwork, there was also an increase in productivity.
Wearable technology will be high up the agenda at the forthcoming ACI Facilitation, IT and Customer Service Conference, hosted by Aéroports de Paris from 3-5 November, as part of the ACI EUROPE Airport Exchange event.
Senior representatives from Aéroports de Montréal, Schiphol, SITA, Copenhagen Airport, SEA Milano, JC Decaux, Finavia, Incheon Airport, Disneyland Paris, Eurostar, Isavia, Ink, LocusLabs and more will discuss the theme “Best in Class – the processes, technologies and support required to create a better passenger experience”.
So what’s next for wearable technology? Graham anticipates “full roll-out at our Upper Class Wing in London Heathrow”, with further trials of wearable devices across the airline operation coming soon. “We continue to investigate the use of wearable devices by our customers that would allow us to enhance their experience. We will continue to lead and innovate in this area,” he concluded.