Airports’ Lost Art of Conversation

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Airports’ Lost Art of Conversation

Medjet Travel Assistance Tip – These days, it seems like airlines are doing everything they can to eliminate the human element from the airport experience. But are we sacrificing service for expediency?

We’re already used to managing our travel on the computer and these days some airlines are even letting you check in automatically when you book your ticket. Just click a box and an airline like Air France KLM will send your boarding pass automatically to your email or smartphone. With smartphones being so…well, smart, most people don’t even have to print out their boarding passes. Just hold up the barcode to be scanned and you’re done. At that point, practically the only human interaction takes place when you get your luggage tagged at the airline counter.

Well, now even that has become automated. Several airports in Europe ‹including Amsterdam’s Schiphol and Paris’s Orly ‹offer a self-service bag drop system. Some airlines are even testing out automated boarding turnstiles at the departure gates.
Forget about handing your boarding pass to the agent. You scan your own and get on board, ‹no human interaction required. Continental tested it out in Houston a while back, and a number of airlines in Europe and Asia have already implemented it.

The airlines argue, not surprisingly, that all this automation reduces workload, which allows staff to focus on bigger customer-service issues. But of course there are those who believe the airlines’ long-term goal is to reduce the need for human staff altogether. What’s next?
Virtual customer service? Guess what, it’s already here. Say “hello” to Ava, the holographic avatar in all three New York-area airports. Her job is to field those common customer-service questions like where the taxi stand is located or where’s the nearest bathroom.

You¹ll see a similar avatar named, Paige in Washington¹s Dulles Airport, and in Boston¹s Logan Airport her name is Carla. The UK introduced its virtual airport assistants, including Holly and Graham, last year.

On the positive side, computers and avatars never have a bad day ‹unless, of course, there’s a malfunction. Or worse, they don’t function well from the start. Consider this — Paige, Carla, Holly, Graham and yes, Ava weren’t designed to think creatively or solve problems beyond the simplest situations. And in my opinion, when the art of conversation is lost…so have we.