Even more ‘virtual agents’ coming to airports: next stop, New York

Virtual customer service agents might not be replacing humans any time soon, but more airports and airlines like Iberia are seeing their value.

Iberia passengers get help from virtual check-in assistants

In a move that’s likely to make sci-fi fans proud, Spanish airline Iberia has introduced two virtual assistants by check-in kiosks at its Madrid-Barajas Airport hub.

The holographic projections – which appear as a 2D image of a real person – are assisting with practical information aimed at making passengers’ journeys more efficient, the airline says.

The agents – which are stationed at Terminal 4 – are providing Iberia passengers with information about boarding procedures, using its check-in desks, express bag drop counters and fast-track service.

Iberia says that more than 200 messages will be relayed to passengers at different times.

As well as being able to promote some of its service to passengers, Iberia says it wants to “streamline” check-in processes and hopes that the extra help will cut waiting times.

The virtual agents are also cheaper than a human workforce, but aren’t sophisticated enough to deal with individual queries, so travellers in need of help at the express check-in or luggage kiosks will need to find a human face – for now.

While virtual agents aren’t new at airports, they are popping up more in public spaces including airport terminals - many in the UK – in an effort to help passengers through check-in and security.

Avatar-like assistants coming to US airports

This week, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced plans to introduce avatar-like assistants at its three major airports: Newark Liberty, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia Airports this summer.

It will be the first time this computer-generated hologram technology will be used at at a North American airport, according to the Port Authority.

The Canadian firm behind the technology, Airus Media describes the benefits of its avatar (named “Ava”) on its website: “She never gets sick and doesn’t require a background check.

Watch the video here:

While travellers can expect to see more virtual agents appearing at airports, whether they become intelligent enough to help travellers with more than they were programmed for is another matter.

Perhaps in future, airports might even go as far as using avatars to break the bad news about delays to passengers.

Do you think virtual agents are a good idea, or a waste of money? Have they helped you through the airport? Let us know below.

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