Google's Glass and the Future of Frequent-Flyer Flattery

Google Glass Photograph by Peter Strelitski/Redux

If Google never finds a mainstream consumer market for its wearable Glass device, perhaps airlines will be interested.

Virgin Atlantic began a six-week trial Tuesday that will equip its staff at London’s Heathrow Airport with the eyewear gadgets in an effort to more quickly shuttle first- and business-class passengers through the airport and into a separate wing at Terminal 3 reserved for high-end travelers. Here’s how the airline describes the check-in process and potential benefits of Google Glass:

From the minute Upper Class passengers step out of their chauffeured limousine at Heathrow’s T3 and are greeted by name, Virgin Atlantic staff wearing the technology will start the check-in process. At the same time, staff will be able to update passengers on their latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination and translate any foreign language information. In future, the technology could also tell Virgin Atlantic staff their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences–anything that provides a better and more personalised service.

The wireless eyeglass computers may allow Virgin Atlantic and other airlines to better collate data they have on their best customers and create a more personal, concierge-like service, akin to the personal efforts most luxury hotels and resorts undertake for regular guests. In the U.S., Delta Air Lines is outfitting 19,000 flight attendants with Nokia Lumia phones to process credit card transactions, and those devices will eventually be used to dispense information about passengers as well. Airlines are hoping that a more personalized experience—wishing you happy birthday, for example, or recalling that you like pinot grigio, not chardonnay—will translate to more loyal customers.

Virgin said it may expand the use of Google Glass across its network, depending on the outcome of the London test.