Robots to help BA passengers find their way around Heathrow

British Airways/PA

British Airways is to deploy a pair of robots to help passengers navigate through Heathrow Airport.

The machines will interact with customers in multiple languages and escort them to locations in Terminal 5 such as cafes, toilets, meeting rooms and family check-in zones.

They will be programmed to answer thousands of passengers’ questions and free up staff to help with more complex queries, according to the airline.

Around 90,000 passengers travel through Terminal 5 at the UK’s busiest airport every day.

Ricardo Vidal, head of innovation at British Airways, said the carrier is constantly looking at how it can use automation to provide faster and smoother journeys for passengers.

He added: “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.”

The two bots being trialled from February will be named Bill after Lieutenant EH “Bill” Lawford, who captained the world’s first daily international passenger air service from London to Paris in 1919.

They will be supplied by west London-based firm BotsAndUs and will use geolocation technology and dozens of sensors to move around Terminal 5 without colliding with passengers or their suitcases.

Other innovations being developed by British Airways this year as part of a £6.5 billion investment in improving customer experiences include the use of artificial intelligence to cut delays in preparing aircraft for departure, driverless baggage vehicles and 3D printing of cabin parts.

Gatwick Airport began trialling a valet parking robot in the autumn, while robots have also been used to provide a variety of functions at overseas airports such as in Munich, Germany; Seoul, South Korea; Shenzen, China; Amsterdam-Schiphol, Netherlands; and Edmonton, Canada.

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