Virgin Atlantic flies in Google Glass

The airline is testing out wearable technology with its Upper Class passengers at Heathrow.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 16 Apr 2015

Where Sir Richard Branson goes, others follow. Or at least that’s what Virgin Atlantic is hoping, as it becomes the first airline to test out Google Glass and other wearable technology on its ‘Upper Class’ (in case they weren’t first class enough) customers.

For the next six weeks, concierges in the nerd glasses will greet Virgin passengers who rock up at Heathrow in limos and start checking them in, while providing updates on flight information and weather and goings-on at their destination, and translating anything in a foreign language (MT hopes Google Glass is better than Google Translate…).

In future, wearable tech could also tell flight staff passengers’ food and drink preferences (champers now plz), the airline said in a statement. What’s next – Ryanair using Google Glass instead of a co-pilot?

Virgin is also testing iBeacon with its first class customers, a Bluetooth transmitter that tells nearby Apple iOS devices of discounts, updates on boarding and other useful bits that make a flyer’s world go round. MT reckons all this gadgetry will more likely make life easier for Virgin’s staff, who probably have to have all that information to hand anyway, rather than their already-pampered passengers.

The airline has always tried to be first in line for new technology, allowing mobile phones to be switched on on board in 2011 and rolling out 3G. It’s also currently testing wifi on its planes.

However, before we economy class rabble get too excited about futuristic flying in the near future, Virgin brought us back down to earth with a bump – this one’s only for the 1%.

‘While it’s fantastic that more people can now fly than ever before, the fact that air travel has become so accessible has led to some of the sheen being lost for many passengers,’ said Virgin Atlantic’s IT director Dave Bulman. That’s right – the super rich aren’t the only ones trapped in a tin can at 30,000 feet, no matter how much wearable tech you throw at them.

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