Virgin Atlantic trials wearable technology at Heathrow

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Virgin Atlantic staff are using Google Glass and Sony SmartWatch 2 technology as part of a pilot scheme aimed at boosting customer service.

The UK airline has collaborated with air transport IT specialist SITA for the trial. Concierges serving “upper class” passengers at London Heathrow are deploying the wearable technology as part of the check-in process, and can provide the latest flight information and news on weather and local events at the destination, with translation from other languages possible. The technology could in future be used to communicate passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences to Virgin Atlantic staff, says SITA.

The pilot is to last six weeks, during which benefits will be evaluated ahead of a potential wider roll-out.

The Google Glass or Sony SmartWatch 2 used by the concierge is integrated to a purpose-built dispatch app built by SITA and to the Virgin Atlantic passenger service system. The dispatch app manages task allocation and concierge availability, and pushes passenger information to the assigned staff member’s glasses or watch as the passenger arrives in a chauffeur-driven limousine.

“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,” says Virgin Atlantic’s IT director Dave Bulman.

He claims that the airline is “the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve the customer experience”.

Virgin Atlantic has previously worked with SITA to test iBeacon with upper-class passengers at Heathrow, using the low-powered Bluetooth transmitter to notify nearby Apple iOS devices of services, discounts, and updates on flight-boarding schedules.