NEWS: If you thought Qatar staff were robotic, wait until you see British Airways….

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’ airport hosts to help customers with more complex queries. Robots have become more common place in the travel industry with many hotels using them for simple tasks or even delivering items to rooms!

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 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.” 

The robots will be called ‘Bill’ as an ode to Lt E H “Bill” Lawford, the captain of the world’s first scheduled international service by British Airways’ predecessor Air Transport and Travel, which flew from Hounslow Heath, Middlesex to Paris on 25 August 1919.

Do you like the idea of companies using robots to help customers with simple tasks or do you prefer the human touch? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media.

5 Comments on "NEWS: If you thought Qatar staff were robotic, wait until you see British Airways…."

  1. welcome the move towards automation or robotics! However, there are certain aspects which need direct contact with a person. And if thats not provided well or companies use this purely for cost cutting, thats a slippery slope then!

  2. I will never make use of this so called improvement, just like I do not use self check-outs in supermarkets. For every robot used then 2 to 5 perhaps more (dependent on the operating hours of the facility) people jobs are cut and those people, possibly, end up in the jobless queue!

  3. Why the reference to Qatar in the heading with no further mention of that airline in the body of the article? This seems very unfair on the Skytrax 2019 Airline of the Year which also won best business class. I have flown Qatar on numerous occasions and including 4 flights in the past month and can absolutely understand why they repeatedly win so many awards. Qatar’s staff are superbly trained and are welcoming, courteous, helpful and efficient. The “We fly to Serve” motto would seem far more appropriate to Qatar staff than BA. The problem with BA staff is they have been programmed to do everything to minimise cost rather than help the customer. The staff are one of the reasons flying Qatar is such a pleasure which is a particularly achievement when recruiting from such a diverse range of countries. The Qatar staff always do all they can to help. My most recent flight was an ex EU from Stockholm to Bangkok with BA flights tagged onto either end on a separate ticket. As expected and in accordance with IAG policy the robotic BA check-in staff at Heathrow refused to tag my bag through to Bangkok despite both BA and Qatar being on-world members and having an interline agreement. On the return from Bangkok, the Qatar agent with a beaming smile was only to happy to help and the next time I say my bag was on the T5 carousel. The staff on board in the Business Class cabins are amazing too. The reference to Qatar in this heading is not relevant and in my view an unfair slur on a great airline.

    • Hi Nick. It was a joke! Personally I don’t find Qatar robotic either but that is the feedback a lot of people give so it was a reference to that.

  4. Robots, will it be like telephone answering machines that lead you through a list of options and when your query can’t be answered just cut you off?

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