“Things went better than expected” – British Airways CEO.
Rome, Italy 29th August 2023 – Guest post by Roberto Calvi, passenger.
Bemused passengers had been shown to their seats by equally posh “Robo Hosts” who served them teas coffees and snacks. Passengers heard that the flight was “the first ever entirely controlled by an AI system.” Having been unaware of this fact prior to take-off, travellers became a little anxious at first, but eventually managed to relax and enjoy the proceedings. It was entertaining to witness the snobbish bots display quite human-like qualities: Serving lukewarm drinks and becoming irritated at passengers passing by to use the lavatory. Some even noticed bots muttering to themselves. Passengers were asked to repeat their orders as the bots (allegedly) could not understand their accents. The phrases “Please speak slowly” and “Can you speak clearly?” were repeated. Some resorted to loudly shouting their orders at the bots.
Otherwise the flight was relatively tranquil until two hours in, when the aircraft suddenly lurched to the left, causing immediate panic and resulting in some hitting their heads against adjacent passengers or the sides of the plane. Screams and sobs could be heard throughout the aircraft. One teary-eyed passenger was heard quietly repeating the words “I knew it. We’re going to die, we’re going to die.” (I subsequently learned that he was an AI programmer.)
Our Robo Hosts remained perfectly serene as if all this chaos was merely routine. When asked what was going on they were very reassuring: “Do not worry madam.” one responded “Charlene has this all under control.” Protests to the contrary were quickly dismissed. Eventually Charlene came over the intercom to announce that “she” had diverted course because incoming data indicated that a war had broken out in the United Kingdom and the aircraft needed to avoid flying over hostile territory. Margaret explained that this data later turned out to be incorrect. The cause of this error was another AI source who had misinterpreted data from a news feed, which was then later corrected. Charlene reassured passengers that the aircraft had reverted to it’s normal route and that they would be landing only 30 minutes behind schedule. Further reassurances were offered: “Don’t worry- we stocked up on extra fuel, and have approximately 35 minutes available. This is more than enough to get us back on the ground.”
Passengers became visibly upset, many becoming physically sick. Several began to pray. The Robo Hosts remained perfectly calm, offering free coffee and snacks. Their seeming lack of concern over the situation caused further irritation. Their suggestions of a “sing song to lift the spirits” were swiftly rebuffed. Thankfully there were no further incidents on the flight other than a couple of minor cuts and burns caused by the bots spilling boiling water and randomly offering cutlery to passengers who clearly didn’t want anything. The flight touched down in Fiumicino 37 minutes late, much to the relief of all humans on board.
In response to the incident British Airways Chairman Sean Doyle later stated: “British Airways is delighted to announce that the first ever AI controlled flight was successfully deployed. Some minor tweaks are certainly needed and we have taken on board suggestions offered by participants, but we look forward to a bright future for AI in piloting our aircraft.”
Passengers’ legal advisors are considering his statement and will be issuing responses in due course.