Virgin Atlantic begins Google Glass trial

Virgin Atlantic begins Google Glass trial

Forty two per cent of travellers worldwide (53% in the UK) believe flying is less glamorous than it used to be, a poll for Virgin Atlantic shows.

However, there was a clear opportunity for innovations in technology to turn this around.

When asked what would improve their experience of flying in the future, more than half (55%) said that on board Wi-Fi would be the most appealing aspect, second only to bigger windows and more space (60%).

Almost a third of UK passengers would like to see personalised menus that you can order in advance and 19% want electronic boarding passes that don’t have to be printed every time they fly.

The study of 10,000 passengers is released to coincide with the airline trialling Google Glass technology by concierge staff in the airline’s Upper Class Wing at Heathrow for six weeks.

Staff wearing the technology will start the check-in process as soon as Upper Class passengers step out of their chauffeured limousine at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and are greeted by name.

They 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 provide staff with their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences.

The research found that the favourite aspect of flying is the in-flight entertainment system, according to 41% of UK passengers.

Across the world, only Japanese passengers said that they prefer the free drinks (47%) over the in-flight entertainment (39%).

Beyond the flight itself, passengers also want the air industry to push ahead on improving the environmental impact of aircraft.

Aircraft running on environmentally-friendly fuel such as biofuel or solar would be appealing to 68% of UK travellers, and almost three quarters (73%) would like to see – or hear – significantly quieter planes.

Virgin Atlantic IT director Dave Bulman said: “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.

“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.

“Reassuringly a lot of aspects of flying that people say they would like to see in future, Virgin Atlantic is already introducing – for example bigger windows will be a feature of our new 787s and we are already rolling out Wi-Fi across our aircraft.

“Many of our passengers now use their mobiles on board, particularly to send emails or check Facebook. We continue to look ahead and research innovations that customers might only dream of today.

“The whole industry needs to listen to what these passengers are calling for, and keep innovating to bring a return to the golden age of air travel. Flying should be a pleasure not a chore.”

Virgin Atlantic is also testing iBeacon with its Upper Class passengers at Heathrow, a new low-powered Bluetooth transmitter that can notify iOS Apple devices of nearby services, discounts and updates on their flight boarding schedules.

The airline’s newly enhanced mobile site means passengers will be able to book flights, check in online and check their flight status on the move.

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