Thought leadership

Virgin Atlantic has launched a groundbreaking trial of wearable technology in the Upper Class Wing at London Heathrow Airport. In the first passenger-facing wearable technology trial of its kind in the industry, Virgin Atlantic concierge staff will make use of Google Glass and Sony Smartwatches to deliver a high-tech, personalised passenger experience.

During the six-week trial, Upper Class passengers will be greeted by name upon arrival at the Upper Class Wing and the airline agent will be able to start the check-in process immediately using the innovative technology. Staff will also be able to provide up-to-the-minute information such as flight updates and destination information using the smart glasses and watches.

Airline staff in the Upper Class Wing at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 will be equipped with either Google Glass or a Sony Smartwatch 2, which is integrated with 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, and it pushes passenger information directly to the assigned concierge’s Google Glass or smartwatch as the passenger is arriving, so they will be fully prepared to personally welcome each passenger.

In the future, Virgin Atlantic could even use the wearable technology to communicate passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences to staff, to provide an even more personal experience. Furthermore, the airline is also partnering with SITA to test iBeacons – low-powered Bluetooth transmitters that can notify nearby iOS devices of services and discounts in their vicinity, as well as boarding updates.

Dave Bulman, Director of IT at Virgin Atlantic, said: “Our wearable technology pilot with SITA makes us the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve the customer experience. We are upholding Virgin Atlantic’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience.”

Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA, added: “2014 is shaping up to be the breakout year for wearable technology, and Virgin Atlantic is the first to bring its vision to reality. At SITA Lab, we’ve taken the lead in testing and trialling this new technology for the air transport industry, and it’s been fantastic to work with Virgin Atlantic to launch the industry’s first wearable technology application.”

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