More airlines “ask Alexa” as AI becomes more mainstream in the industry

18 December, 2017

United Airlines and Air Canada are the latest airlines to tap the ever growing popularity of AI by adding Amazon’s Alexa to their respective customer service management strategies.

During 3Q2017, United began offering customers the ability to check-in for domestic flights, inquire about onboard amenities and monitor flight status with Alexa.

United’s “skill” (the mechanism that enables users to interact with devices through voice commands) is now available in the Amazon Alex app. Once the skill is enabled, customers can connect to their United MileagePlus account for activation and simply say “Alexa, ask United to check me in”.

Air Canada’s passengers can ask Alexa to access travel information, including flight status, fare quotes, baggage carousel location, TSA pre-check availability, required travel documents and information about the airline’s mobile applications.

The airline has also used AI generated language to deploy new customer fare sales and upgrade emails that were “40% more engaging than traditional offers”, Air Canada recently concluded.

The airline believes there are further opportunities to exploit AI to improve revenue management. “It’s machine driven, and it gives us the data to be able to do pricing in a more compelling fashion...”, said company CFO Michael Rousseau.

One of the more headline-grabbing uses of AI in the hotel industry was Hilton Worldwide’s debut of Connie, a robot concierge, roughly a year ago. Connie is a robot developed by IBM Watson.

When Hilton unveiled Connie, the company explained the more its robot learns, the more it would improve guest recommendations. Hilton also has access to a log of questions customers ask Connie and the robot’s answers to enable improvements in the guest experience.

Travel providers are just scratching the surface of big data and AI, and many of those companies are still wrapping their heads around all the opportunities evolving technologies offer. But Air Canada has perhaps been one of the most outspoken companies about “big data’s” potential.

“Data has become the new oil, and we are in deep planning in exploring, drilling and commercialising our very customer and process-rich data over the coming years in a meaningful fashion”, Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu recently declared.