In the latest stage of British Airways' investment in airport automation, the airline has announced that from 2020 it will trial AI-powered autonomous robots at its home at Heathrow Terminal 5 to help some of the 90,000 customers who travel through the terminal each day navigate through the airport, freeing up the airlines' award-winning airport hosts to help customers with more complex queries. For more information see the IDTechEx report on New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players.
The cutting-edge robots from tech company BotsAndUs are programmed to interact with passengers in multiple different languages using the latest translation technology to answer thousands of questions, including real-time flight information.
Additionally, using geo-location technology and dozens of advanced sensors to constantly monitor a 360˚radius, the robot will move around the airport terminal freely and safely, escorting customers to specific locations such as the airline's dedicated Special Assistance and Family Check-In zones.
To complement its investment in technology and automation, last year British Airways launched a multi-million pound investment in enhanced training for colleagues as part of its First Contact Resolution Programme at Heathrow. The programme empowers customer service agents to use their expertise, initiative and judgment to solve customer queries on the spot using a suite of specialised apps on iPads. Following the overwhelmingly positive response to the new service from customers at Heathrow, the airline is now rolling the programme out across its worldwide network.
Ricardo Vidal, British Airways' Head of Innovation, says the combination of automation and personalised customer service will define the airport of the future: "We are always looking for new and innovative ways to use automation to help our customers enjoy a faster and smoother journey through the airport and beyond. These smart robots are the latest innovation allowing us to free up our people to deal with immediate issues and offer that one-on-one service we know our customers appreciate. In the future, I envisage a fleet of robots working side-by-side with our people offering a truly seamless travel experience."
Andrei Danescu, Founder of BotsAndUs, added: "We are very excited to partner with British Airways. The trial will pave the way for other new and interesting services we can provide to improve the customer journey as we work together to re-imagine the airport experience."
As part of British Airways' £6.5 billion investment for customers, 2019 saw the carrier install 80 brand-new automated check-in machines and 80 advanced automated bag-drop machines at Heathrow Terminal 5 and, with the airline's customer service agents always on hand to help, the airline has seen an increase in customer satisfaction and a dramatic reduction in queues.
British Airways has also completed its roll-out of self-boarding technology across every international gate at Heathrow Terminal 5, leading to fewer flight delays. The gates are the first step towards customers being able to biometrically board international flights from the UK. The airline originally pioneered the use of biometric self-boarding gates on flights within the UK from Heathrow and more than 3.5 million customers have now boarded their flights this way. The airline also introduced biometric facial recognition technology on flights to London from Orlando, Los Angeles and New York, JFK transforming the airport experience and halving the amount of time it takes to board an aircraft.
Source and top image: British Airways
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