Virgin Atlantic launches Google Glass pilot scheme for staff

Virgin Atlantic passengers will be the first air travellers to experience the benefits of pioneering Google Glass technology as they arrive at London Heathrow airport, in an innovative pilot scheme which started on Tuesday.

Virgin Atlantic launches Google Glass pilot scheme for staff"Concierge staff in the airline's upper class wing will be using Google Glass and other wearable technology to deliver the industry's most high tech and personalised customer service yet," Virgin said in a statement.

The cutting-edge 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 travelling by plane has sky-rocketed in recent decades, the experience has lessened.

The airline said it is joining passengers and calling on the industry to introduce more innovations and radical fresh thinking to meet sky-high consumer expectations.

Virgin Atlantic, working with air-transport specialist SITA, has become the first in the industry to test how the latest wearable technology, including Google Glass, which it says can best be used to enhance customers' travel experiences and improve efficiency.

From the minute upper class passengers step out into Heathrow's T3 thay are greeted by name by Virgin Atlantic staff wearing the technology, who then 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 – anything that provides a better and more personalised service.

During the six week pilot scheme, the benefits to consumers and the business will be evaluated ahead of a potential wider roll-out in the future, Virgin said.

Dave Bulman, director of IT, Virgin Atlantic, said, ''By being the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve customer experience, we are upholding Virgin Atlantic's long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience. 

While overall, 42 per cent of travellers worldwide – rising to 53 per cent in the UK – said flying is less glamorous than it used to be, Virgin says there is a clear opportunity for innovations in technology to turn this around. When asked what would improve their experience of flying in the future, 55 per cent said that wifi on board would be the most appealing aspect, second only to bigger windows and more space on board (60 per cent).

Almost a third of UK passengers (30 per cent) say they would like to see personalised menus that  they can order in advance and 19 per cent wish for electronic boarding passes that don't have to be printed every time they fly – a dream that's already a reality for mobile users on Virgin Atlantic.

The study also reveals that some aspects of the flying experience have improved, in particular passengers relish the opportunity to catch the latest box office hits at 35,000 feet. The times when the only entertainment was looking out of the window are behind us, with 41 per cent of UK passengers saying their favourite aspect of flying is the in-flight entertainment system, a feature pioneered by Virgin Atlantic for business class passengers back in the 1980s and now available to all passengers. Across the world, only Japanese passengers said that they prefer the free drinks (47 per cent) over the in-flight entertainment (39 per cent).

Beyond the flight itself, passengers also want the air industry to push ahead on improving planes' environmental impact. Aircraft run on environmentally friendly fuel such as biofuel or solar would be appealing to 68 per cent of UK travellers, and almost three quarters (73 per cent) would like to see – or hear – significantly quieter planes.