Orly airport in Paris, France is experimenting with "virtual" boarding agents who always smile, don't need breaks, and never go on strike. "Bonjour! I invite you to go to your boarding gate. Paris Airports wishes you a bon voyage," the image appears to say, while the name of the destination flashes in front of it.
The pilot project in July and has so far been met with a mix of amusement and surprise by travelers, who frequently try to touch and speak with the life-like video images that greet them and direct them to their gate. The images materialize seemingly out of thin air when a live boarding agent presses a button to signal the start of boarding.
Images are rear-projected onto a human shaped silhouette made of plexiglass. Three actual airport boarding agents were filmed in a studio to create the illusion, which the airport hopes will be more eye-catching and easier for passengers to understand than current electronic display.
Airport authority AdP came up with the idea when it was brainstorming ways to modernize one of the dozens of boarding gates at Orly. Similar virtual agents have been in airports in London and Manchester since earlier this year.
The gate serves about 30 or 40 flights a day and about 1 million passengers a year pass through it, mainly on their way to destinations in the south of France and Corsica.
The experiment will be evaluated by the end of the year, after which it could be expanded to other gates and other airports.