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Flying First Class on Virgin Atlantic? Airline Staff May Greet You with Google Glass

The next time you arrive at Heathrow Airport, you may be greeted by a tech early adopter — assuming, of course, that you arrive in one of Virgin Atlantic’s chauffeured limousines. The airline has begun decking out concierge staff in Google Glass and Sony SmartWatches in an attempt to improve service for its Upper Class (read: first class) clientele at the London airport.

Virgin purchased the shiny new wearable devices to help counteract an increasingly negative perception of air travel among the public — to bring a “sheen” back to flying. While it’s easy to chalk the move up to a publicity stunt — OK, that’s part of it, too — the rationale behind the choice of devices is actually kind of sound.

The devices will serve staff flight information, weather and events, and help translate information from other languages. Both Google Glass and Sony’s SmartWatch connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth; using an app created specifically for Virgin Atlantic, relevant information about passengers will be pushed to the head- and wrist-mounted gadgets as it arrives, in real time. Moving from the traditional desktop PC also means that concierge staff can address the needs of limo-riding guests while still — mostly — maintaining eye contact.

Virgin suggests that the “pilot program” (pun apparently not intended) will be the first of its kind, and it’s the first use of Google Glass for airline customer service that we’ve heard. Previously, the concept of outfitting commercial pilots with Glass has been floated, as an attempt to provide face-mounted contextual information. But given the amount of time it took the FAA to allow passengers to read their Kindles at takeoff, it’s probably best not to hold your breath.

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