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British Airways to trial robot helpers at Heathrow
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British Airways to trial robot helpers at Heathrow

Flying from Heathrow Terminal 5 next year? You may notice that some members of staff are not like the others.

British Airways has announced it will put two self-driving robots to work answering customer queries from February.

The plan is to free up more time for human staff to deal with complicated customer issues, while the robots – both named Bill after Lieutenant EH ‘Bill’ Lawford, who captained the first international passenger air service – assist with directions, flight times and gate details.

Created by UK company Botsandus, the machines have been programmed to answer thousands of questions in multiple languages.

They use geo-location technology and sensors to move around the terminal, and can escort customers to places such as Special Assistance and Family Check-in zones.

Automation is creeping into almost every part of the airport experience – and 2020 is likely to see an acceleration of that.

Robot helpers have already been trialled at airports in Istanbul, Taipei, Dallas, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and more.

They have also been parking cars at Lyon-Saint Exupéry and Gatwick.

At Tokyo Narita, roving robots use biometric technology to scan a passenger’s face, using that data to let them know what gate they need to be at, at what time, and how to get there. Business Traveller also tried a self-driving wheelchair that uses biometrics to assess where the passenger needs to go, take them there and then drive itself back.

Ricardo Vidal, British Airways’ Head of Innovation, commented:

“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…

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