Air Travel: Robots in Munich, Southwest’s Nintendo Contest

(Photo by Lufthansa)

It’s been a big week for technology in air travel.

Early this week Munich Airport and Lufthansa began testing “Josie Pepper,” a humanoid robot who can assist passengers by answering questions and offering directions, in Terminal 2. “Josie,” which is currently in its testing phase, marks the first-ever test of a humanoid robot equipped with artificial intelligence at a German airport, Munich Airport and Lufthansa said. The robot, which speaks English, will await passengers at the top of the ramp leading to the shuttle connecting the main terminal to the satellite building. The robot is powered by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence cloud. The aim of this testing phase is to determine whether the robot is accepted by passengers.

Also this week, Southwest Airlines partnered with Nintendo on a promotion that will allow passengers to win a Nintendo Switch bundled with the hit game Super Mario Odyssey. Through March 16, eligible residents of the United States can visit Southwest.com/Nintendo to enter to win one of 30 Nintendo Switch prize packs and one grand prize including roundtrip air travel for four. (The grand prize does not include taxes and fees of at least $5.60 one way).

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Finally, moving outside of technology, this week marked a big change to Delta’s new service and support animal policy. After consulting with disability advocacy groups, including the National Federation of the Blind, the airline announced it would not require customers traveling with trained service animals to submit vaccination paperwork online at least 48 hours in advance of travel, although they are encouraged to do so. Delta had said it would add the new rule, effective March 1, in response to a rising number of incidents involving support and service animals. Advocacy groups had countered that service animals were more well-trained and safer than service animals, and that the 48-hour requirement could prevent passengers with service animals from flying in an emergency. Emotional support animals will still be subject to the 48-hour requirement. All of the new rules take effect March 1.

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