From maintenance to human resources... AI and Blockchain permeate a range of business functions at Delta

6 January, 2019

Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain and machine learning have become mainstays in the vernacular of every type of business worldwide. It is debatable how fast the airline industry is working to implement those technologies, but US carrier Delta Air Lines is using AI and matching learning across a wide spectrum of business functions.

Delta executives recently explained some of the ways the airline is implementing those technologies, spanning from maintenance to human resources. “You read a lot of headlines about machine learning, artificial intelligence. We’ve been at scale with predictive maintenance for at least three years,” its chief operating Officer Gil West explained.

The airline takes data that streams off aircraft and overlays it with machine learning to look for patterns and identify changes in those patterns to proactively identify trends that would eventually lead to a mechanical issue that could cause a flight cancellation or necessitate a repair.

The airline is also using AI to help manage human resource functions. As an example, chief human resources officer Joanne Smith stated Delta received roughly one million applications annually for approximately 5,000 jobs. “We can’t possibly, with human eyes, sort through those million applications and be guaranteed we're finding the 5,000 best,” she explained.

So, Delta is turning to AI and machine learning to predict success of individuals it hires with the attributes of its current employees, which “allows us to better be better predictors of success…”, Ms Smith continued.

The company is also actively working on blockchain applications. The airline is putting its chatbots into production to “take some of the really low hanging queries and questions and interpret that in natural language and be able to respond to that in real-time, thus freeing up our customer service agents to focus on higher value-added, more meaningful conversations with our customers” said airline chief information officer Rahul Samant.

He remarked not all of Delta’s explorations into blockchain and other applications will “make it to primetime’, but some, such as predictive maintenance “are going to a major force to reckon with within our operation”, Mr Samant concluded.