Unbelievably, some airlines are cutting costs by replacing checkin staff with robots. I am a big fan of the personal touch, but airline bosses do not all agree with me. They now seem quite happy to replace some of their real life staff with robots in an attempt to save costs.
EVA Air is the latest airline to follow this trend and has launched two interactive robots called Pepper. The robots are located at Taipei’s International airport. One is located by the check-in desks, and the other in the reception area of the carrier’s airport lounge.
These robots can scan boarding passes and also provide travellers with departure details, destination weather updates and Duty Free special offers. They can even play games, shake hands, dance and pose for selfies.
According to EVA Air, Pepper interacts “through the use of a touchscreen, and through its eyes”, and currently communicates in Chinese, although English and Japanese capabilities will be added by the end of March.
Admittedly EVA Air have previously launched some interesting and fun concepts like their adorable Hello Kitty Jets but this is, perhaps, a step too far.
Eva Air is not alone. Last year Hilton partnered with IBM to trial Connie the robot at its Hilton McClean property in Virginia, with the aim of helping guests with information on local attractions, restaurant suggestions, and details on hotel services.
And the Japanese are always ahead of the trend and launched the strange robot hotel back in 2015. This freaky uniquey, one-of-a-kind hotel can be experienced, in Nagasaki, Japan where businessman Hideo Sawada has opened a robot hotel to save on staff costs.
KLM has also been testing its Spencer robot at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, which it hopes will eventually help to guide passengers around the airport.
I think airline CEOs are often so keen to cut costs, that they forget that some of the most successful and best airlines are Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. These Middle Eastern carriers offer an incresingly more luxurious offering, whereas British airways seem set on cutting out their luxuries. The latest British Airways cut is their previously free food and drink around europe. They now sell M&S sandwiches on their flights instead. In my humble opinion this takes away the main differentiator between British Airways and low cost carriers like Ryanair and Easyjet.
Robotic staff take this cost saving trend a step further. What next? Robotic air hostesses? Perhaps I am old fashioned but I like to be greeted by a human and feel that the it is important to use humans in the customer facing rolls at an airline, even if planes are all eventually flown by computers…
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