Robot causes a stir by boarding plane as a passenger

'Athena', the first 'humanoid' robot to fly as a passenger Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

In a scene normally reserved for A-list celebrities a robot called Athena caused a media scrum yesterday when she made robot history by boarding a plane at LAX airport as a passenger.

Athena, a humanoid robot with a head, hands and feet was snapped as she boarded a Lufthansa flight for Germany in what has been billed as the first instance of a robot traveling as a paid passenger on an airline.

Unfortunately for Athena though she was unable to board her flight unassisted, like most passengers, but instead had to be pushed through the busy airport in a wheelchair by her travel companion doctoral student Alexander Herzog.

Headed to Germany to a new home at Europe's Max Planck Society Athena will soon be taught how to walk and will eventually be programmed to be able to carry out tasks deemed too dangerous for human beings.

LAX airport officials said Athena could have been shipped in a big box like other electronic gear, but reported that the scientists who now own her "wanted to see how humans responded to a robot sitting in a plane."

A reporter at American news channel KTLA, Kirk Hawkin, tweeted a picture of Athena on the plane:

The airport confirmed the robot travelled on an economy class ticket and was given no special treatment, other than being allowed to skip the boarding queue. They also added that if you're a robot "it’s cheaper to get a seat" than to travel as a shipping item.