SITA and Virgin Atlantic tap new tech for staff training

Aviation faces a jobs and training crisis but new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality are staring to help airlines train for safety-critical positions.

When staff are trained in the traditional way, it can be time-consuming and expensive.

A recent IATA jobs study shows that airline human resources professionals are looking for creative solutions that will help simplify training and boost job retention while ensuring high safety standards in critical job functions including cabin crew and ground handlers.

As IATA reports:

  • More than 73% of respondents expect the major areas of job growth to be in ground operations, customer service and cabin crew.
  • 48% report that finding new talent is a challenge, both because of the lack of availability of candidates with the right skill levels and qualifications as well as, in some cases, salary demands of new applicants.
  • In addition to the salary and benefits package of each employee, the HR professionals identified career progression opportunities (49%) and development and training (33%) as high priorities in job satisfaction and retention.
  • Only 28% of respondents reported that current training is effective, with many organizations seeking to complement their in-house training with external partners to improve the effectiveness of the training.

Cabin Crew Augmented Reality App

 Virgin Atlantic and SITA have announced a new augmented reality iOS app which will help cabin crew “walk through the cabin” and get familiar with the airline’s Dreamliner aircraft before ever getting onboard the plane. App training will complement classroom training. As SITA explains in the announcement:

“The AR app simulates the full-size view of the interior cabin, giving crew a feel for their new working environment, including accurate spatial awareness. This allows the airline to train crew on new aircraft in a fun and engaging way from the airline’s headquarters in Crawley, London.”

The application was developed by SITA Lab for Virgin Atlantic as part of an ongoing collaboration between the two companies to introduce new technologies as staff tools. Back in 2014, SITA and Virgin Atlantic trialed AR applications with Google Glass which allowed the airline’s concierge agents to offer more personalized service to customers.

Don Langford, CIO of Virgin Atlantic, said of the new AR cabin crew training app:

“Today innovation is the lifeblood of a modern airline. New technologies such as augmented reality hold out the promise to better manage our airline operations while providing an enriched experience to our increasingly tech-savvy passengers. SITA has long been a partner in exploring the frontiers of technology and this AR application is no exception.”

Gustavo Pina, Head of SITA Lab, said:

“SITA Lab has identified augmented reality as one of the emerging technologies that will benefit the air transport industry in the years to come. Working with pioneering airlines such as Virgin Atlantic makes it possible for SITA Lab to really explore the potential of augmented reality and evaluate its business benefits. This project is a vital step in that journey of exploration.”


IATA developed a more immersive training methodology for training ground crew. RampVR combines virtual reality hardware and software to complement the coursework of IATA training for ground operations professionals. Like the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew app, it also addresses limitations in getting trainees on-site. In the case of ground crew, it can be complicated to arrange access to the airport ramp but RampVR’s images are hyper-realistic and allow the trainee to practice in daytime or nighttime conditions.

IATA has so far developed two RampVR modules: Aircraft Turnaround Inspections and Aircraft Marshalling.

Air New Zealand Google Buds

Not all augmented reality applications have to be visual. Air New Zealand has trialed Google Buds paired with Pixel hand-held devices to help customer service agents interact with customers in more than 40 different languages.

As Air New Zealand chief digital officer Avi Golan explained, the airline already has many multilingual employees, but Google Buds help address staffing issues, ensuring that those who may not speak a particular language can still help customers.

Golan explained:

“We operate to 30 international destinations and our customers speak an even more diverse range of languages. Google Pixel Buds could assist in areas such as check-in and boarding as well as inflight to help our staff communicate effectively with international customers.”

Related reading from tnooz:

IATA outlines how tech is reshaping the future of the aviation job market (Aug 2018)

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Marisa Garcia

About the Writer :: Marisa Garcia

Marisa Garcia is the tnooz aviation analyst. She has covered travel technology, design, branding, and strategy for leading publications, including Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, APEX Magazine, AirlineTrends, and Travel+Leisure. She also shares industry insights on her site Flight Chic. Fly with her on Twitter.



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