“Virtual” boarding agents greet and surprise passengers at Paris Orly airport

A futuristic travel experience awaits passengers passing through Paris Orly airport's busy Departures Hall.

"Virtual" boarding agents greet and surprise passengers at Paris Orly airport

The virtual reality trend is taking off at airports looking to find innovative ways to assist passengers. Photo: Francois Mori / AP

Paris Orly airport is trialling the use of avatar-like “virtual” boarding agents to direct passengers to their gate, in an effort to enhance the passenger experience.

The virtual assistants, which are standing in for real staff in Hall 40, are catching passengers by surprise – perhaps because the agents appear so life-like.

The 2D holographic technology works by projecting a pre-recorded video of a real boarding agent onto a human-shaped piece of plexiglass.

"Virtual" boarding agents greet and surprise passengers at Paris Orly airport

Minority report fans will see similarities between this technology and that used in the blockbuster film.

When a real airport agent presses a button to signal the start of boarding, the virtual agents come to life and greet passengers with an automated message: “Bonjour! I invite you to go to your boarding gate. Paris Airports wishes you a bon voyage,” with the name of their destination flashing in front of them.

The experiment is designed to help the airport test new ways of organising its boarding gates. It is also part of an overall upgrade of Hall 40, which has recently been furnished with extra seating areas.

Didier Leroy, the airport’s director of operations said the trial – which began last month – has had a largely positive response: “There’s very few who find it [the agents] useless or just a gizmo.”

Leroy said the new service will be reviewed by the year-end and could be expanded to its other boarding halls in future.

Paris Orly is not the only airport to experiment with virtual reality technology to assist passengers.

Manchester airport in the UK introduced “virtual” agents at the security checkpoint in January this year. The holographic staff are tasked with reminding passengers about the 100ml liquids and gels restrictions, to help reduce the number of items confiscated at security.

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