Virgin Atlantic trials Google Glass and mini printers for faster check-ins

Virgin Atlantic staff will use Google Glass headsets and mini printers to scan passengers' passports and print boarding passes in a bid to reduce check-in times.

Virgin Atlantic: extends wearable tech trial
Virgin Atlantic: extends wearable tech trial

The airline is set to extend its wearable tech trial, whereby Virgin Atlantic staff wore the smartglasses and Sony smartwatches to greet passengers and supply tailored information ahead of their flight.

That trial only ran for Upper Class passengers, the airline’s equivalent of first class. Now Virgin Atlantic wants to bring wearable tech to general check-in areas to boost the customer experience.

David Bulman, chief information officer, told Marketing at Nimbus Ninety's IGNITE conference: "We are going to start with Google Glass, but we are trialling a number of different glasses.

"We’re trialling apps that allow [staff] to take a picture of your passport, which then works with our systems to find your booking and other information.

"We have done trials with printers that sit on people’s belts, so that we can print off boarding passes."

We’re trialling apps that allow staff to take a picture of your passport, which then works with our systems to find your booking and other information

Virgin Atlantic is still firming up the details, and has yet to decide where the trial will take place and how long it will run.

Oculus Rift and facial recognition

Virgin Atlantic is also testing wearable tech within its own operations, Bulman said, such as smartwatches for ground staff and the Oculus Rift headsets.

Virtual reality could be a cheaper, more convenient way to train up cabin crew, for example.

He said: "We’re doing some playing around in the training arena for familiarising crew with aircraft. Is there something there? I think there is, but it’s not quite mature enough yet. But creating virtual environments to train your crew is going to be one of the next innovations."

Elsewhere, Virgin Atlantic is examining the use of wearables for "back office functions", including tech for staff responsible for ensuring a plane takes off on time.

Bulman said: "We’re looking at smartwatches because you can get more rugged versions. I haven’t seen a good smartglass product that can deal with harsh environments. [These staff] need small tickets of information, such as the refuelling truck has arrived, or that the pilot is in the cabin.

"They need blips of information that we can automate."

Bulman pointed to Virgin Atlantic's industry firsts elsewhere, such as the installation of flat beds in business class and on-demand entertainment.

He said: "There are a number of things we’ve brought to market first and that’s a position we feel very strongly about, we want to be driving change within the industry. That’s very Branson."

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