For those travelling by air, give an extra friendly smile to the staff on the check-in desk. Why? Because you may not see them much longer. Not if Air New Zealand has its way. The airline is this month trialling a new robot at Sydney Airport that can check in passengers and wave them goodbye as they board a plane.
Called Chip (surely they could have come up with a better name than that?), the robot has two eyes and no mouth, as well as two hands and no legs and can ‘read’ the passengers’ boarding passes through its eyes.
The airline has created the robot in collaboration with a bank and the robot’s maker. According to the airline, Chip is part of its attempts to ‘push boundaries and stay at the forefront of technology in travel’. If the five-day trial is successful, then the airline will use the robot on a permanent basis at the airport. And if that’s deemed a success then presumably we can expect to see other airlines adopting them too.
We at Explorer Travel Insurance take a keen interest in how the travel industry is using technology; much of which benefits travelers, either by making things easier, or cheaper, or better still, both. Potential new developments on the horizon, such as replacing passports with microchips, could significantly cut down on time spent waiting in lines which we think would be great.
But replacing check-in staff with robots? Really? We’re not entirely confident that Chip would succeed here in the UK. For several reasons.
- We quite like the cheery ‘goodbyes’ that the check-in staff give you at the gate when you board and which, Chip, having no mouth, can’t do.
- We’re not sure that Chip’s makers have seen what happens when an EasyJet flight number is called but we’re pretty sure that no passengers will see him waving at them, so focused are they on getting a seat
- If they haven’t seen an EasyJet flight flight depart they probably won’t have seen other European budget airlines too. So the thought that Chip has no legs could be a real concern, given that he won’t be able to move out of the way when the boarding stampede starts!