Airlines are getting serious about robots. Think ticketing kiosks on wheels, turbocharged with Siri. Air New Zealand just finished a test that involved using a robot to check-in passengers. The flag carrier is not the first to use robots to revamp customer service. There have been similar experiments in Seattle and Amsterdam. Eva Air uses them routinely in Taiwan. The idea is to help airlines manage the ebb-and-flow of flight schedules and the chaos of flight disruptions. Robots are programmed to issue boarding passes, answer flight questions, and provide gate directions, among other tasks. The story, however, may be less about tech-based investment and more about airline cost savings. Replacing customer-service agents with robots has allure for airlines, given the replicable and predictable nature of many requirements. But the use of robots may decimate any lingering pretense of brand loyalty among consumers, at least with economy-class passengers. The day is nigh when only premium ticket holders will have ready access to traditional ground staff. ■
Our Vantage Point: Robots provide a further opportunity for airlines to cut costs, er, manage passenger-related operations. But we are not sure how their widespread adoption will grow corporate revenue.
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Image: Robots are set to take over many airport check-in formalities. Credit: Casanowe at Can Stock Photo Inc.
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