British Airways Utilizes AI to Revamp Air Travel
Sun, April 11, 2021

British Airways Utilizes AI to Revamp Air Travel

One of the airlines currently deploying AI in its operations is British Airways, the UK’s largest airline and flag carrier. Since it is considered one of the biggest airlines in the world, it is understandable that there exists a great complexity in running this company / Photo by: BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons

 

The world’s airlines are investing in automating flight and expanding services to improve the passenger experience. Many airports have already deployed advanced technologies such as biometrics, which can authenticate travelers' identities on physical attributes like fingerprints. Technologies like this are made possible through artificial intelligence. AI will not only support a more efficient and seamless journey but also power a more personalized travel experience for each customer. 

The International Air Transport Association, the trade association for the world’s airlines, reported that the passenger travel volume rose by 7.4% year-on-year last 2016. Reports showed that passenger air travel has rapidly increased and is expected to continue increasing until 2030. Sumesh Patel, Asia Pacific president, stated that airports are now starting to integrate AI technologies such as self-check-in kiosks. A recent survey also revealed that 29% of airports and 25% of airlines are planning to deploy such systems by 2020.

Anuraag Jain, the founder of Zensors, acknowledged how stressful airport security screening processes are for both passengers as well as airports and air carriers. Thus, AI would greatly help in issues like this. "By using Artificial Intelligence to provide real-time data, airports can improve the passenger experience and optimize operations. Having enough time for a beer or coffee once airside is a huge relief for weary holiday passengers,” Jain said. 

According to PR Newswire, a distributor of press releases headquartered in New York City, Barbara Zylinski, the president of SecureInsights, LLC, a Washington DC-based consultancy that supports the introduction of emerging technology to airports and transportation, stated that airports are planning to use AI for a wide variety of use cases and applications. "Highly sophisticated AI capabilities like Zensors' can be very easily and quickly deployed to address both airside and landside challenges,” she said. 

One of the airlines currently deploying AI in its operations is British Airways, the UK’s largest airline and flag carrier. Since it is considered one of the biggest airlines in the world, it is understandable that there exists a great complexity in running this company. Without proper systems and technologies, it can experience inefficiencies arising from flight delays, airport queues, and lost luggage. Thus, British Airways turned to AI to solve their problems.

Improving Punctuality Through AI

A 2019 study by the UK consumer watchdog called Which? revealed that flight delays were worsening in the country. About 4.5% of flights in British Airways were delayed that year. Delayed flights are particularly normal with big airlines like British Airways because they operate up to 800 flights every day. They also run a highly complex operation to ensure that all 145,000 customers traveling through their hub enjoy a punctual departure.

Last year, British Airways announced that they had started using next-generation AI and video technology to improve punctuality for customers – the first airline in the world to do so. According to Standard Digital, one of the largest newspapers in Kenya, the airline had introduced advanced neural networks to its airside operation at Heathrow Terminal 5 to help its people ensure every flight departs safely and on time. British Airways installed cameras on three stands at the terminal to compare live footage of the complex turnaround process with the proposed schedule. 

About 4.5% of flights in British Airways were delayed that year. Delayed flights are particularly normal with big airlines like British Airways because they operate up to 800 flights every day / Photo by: cedarjet201 via Pixabay

 

This is a major change for the airlines since the ground staff usually check and record the details of 18 different activities that need to be completed before the plane can depart for its next flight. This includes unloading and reloading of catering, luggage and cargo, thorough cleaning of the aircraft interiors, and refueling. “An issue affecting just one of these tasks has the potential to disrupt the entire process and delay the flight’s departure,” the airline said in the statement. 

The new system can detect any issues that could out the aircraft at risk of delay. Any signs would alert the staff in charge of the turn within seconds via a smartwatch, which would inform them of the issue and encourage them to take action to get the flight back on track.

AI-Powered Robots in British Airways

Recently, British Airways announced that it is planning to test AI-powered robots at London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5. Starting this year, the airline will use two robots to help guide travelers through the terminal. This will help the airline staff concentrate on helping guests with more complex and pressing problems. The robots can interact or communicate with passengers in a variety of languages and answer a host of different questions, while also offering real-time flight information.

“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,” Ricardo Vidal, head of innovation at British Airways, said in a statement.

According to CNBC, the world leader in business news and real-time financial market coverage, these robots are provided by a technology company called BotsAndUs. One of the robots was named Bill, as an ode to Lt. EH "Bill" Lawford, who was the captain of the world's first international service by Air Transport and Travel, British Airways' predecessor. This is part of the airline’s efforts to improve customer experience and use automation to improve efficiency.

In the future, the airline hopes to use a fleet of robots that work side-by-side with its employees. Indeed, AI has great potential in driving success in the world’s airlines. This could significantly improve their services, providing better passenger experience. 

Recently, British Airways announced that it is planning to test AI-powered robots at London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5. Starting this year, the airline will use two robots to help guide travelers through the terminal / Photo by: Terminal 5 Insider via Wikimedia Commons