Come Fly with Conversational AI

3 minute read

Say goodbye to turbulent travel days and hello to delightful experiences with digital agents.

Creating positive customer experiences is a core mission for airlines. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, global airlines had mixed a (mostly) solid recipe for satisfying travelers, and aside from delays due to inclement weather or mechanical issues, most delivered reliable and enjoyable experiences on a regular basis.

Then the global pandemic turned everything upside down, and the airline industry is still feeling the effects.

When non-essential and business travel came to a sudden halt, airlines were forced to ground planes, and hundreds of thousands of airline employees were laid off around the globe. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, travel returned in a big way when pandemic restrictions were lifted. In a phenomenon best described by the term “revenge travel,” the demand for frequent, indulgent and destination trips spiked drastically as people sought to reclaim time lost to pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Post-pandemic, customers were met by an airline industry that lacked the resources to meet the rush of travelers, a situation that continues today. Although customer satisfaction was initially high as people excitedly returned to the skies, McKinsey noted in September 2021 that “negative sentiment” among travelers was starting to rise. Flash forward to the hectic travel season of 2022, and it’s no surprise that customer satisfaction continues to drop, and fast. The J.D. Power 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study (via Travel Pulse) indicates that overall airport customer satisfaction dropped by 25 points.

Therefore, in addition to bringing back capacity, airlines must also rekindle the trust, ease and joy of travel if they want to maintain customer loyalty. This means adjusting to the demands of more sophisticated travelers, who now expect immediate, seamless and personalized digital support. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, mobile app quality and reliability, as well as website satisfaction are this year’s top three customer satisfaction benchmarks for the airline industry. By leveraging Conversational AI in travel, airlines can bring back the magic of flying and truly delight their customers.

Avoid Delays with Digital Agents

Across all industries, including airlines, the pandemic placed a spotlight on user experiences. In fact, McKinsey notes that customers today are more likely to buy tickets based on “product offerings and operational performance,” versus solely price and schedule.

Operational performance encompasses touchpoints across the entire customer journey, starting from the moment a customer first searches for available flights. Instead of forcing customers to input departure dates and locations into a search bar, scroll through endless flight options and manually choose flight ancillaries, airlines can streamline the experience — and even ‘wow’ their customers — by hiring digital agents powered by Conversational AI.

Customers would then communicate their flight requirements to a digital agent, saying something like, “I would like to book a business class afternoon flight on March 1st from Toronto to Boston. I also need to check one bag. And I need a return flight four days later in the afternoon.” Manually searching for flights that fit these requirements would be time-consuming for the traveler, and the request would be near impossible for a simple chatbot to address.

Conversational AI agents like Amelia, however, can handle requests like this with ease. With Amelia’s robust integration framework, and ability to understand multiple intents and conditional statements, she would seamlessly access all relevant round-trip flight options. After selecting a round-trip itinerary, the customer could then book the flights directly from the conversation with Amelia.

In addition to booking flights, Amelia is available via web chat, mobile apps, SMS or by phone to assist flyers with pre-check-in procedures, day-of-travel questions and gate change information. For example, a traveler waiting for their return flight in Boston would receive an alert on their phone from Amelia if their gate changes last minute. Amelia would also provide directions to the new gate by integrating with the airport’s terminal map. Unlike automated, “no-reply” alerts that leave customers feeling isolated and lost, Amelia can provide immediate and personalized guidance to every flyer, no matter the circumstance.

While delays, cancellations and disruptions are an inevitability while flying, airlines can provide differentiated service with Conversational AI and digital agents that can take flyers through the highs and lows of their journeys — all the while generating soaring customer satisfaction scores.

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Conversational AI & The Return to Travel

With travelers once again on the road and in the air, the travel industry’s appetite to digitally transform their businesses has never been bigger. And with lingering pandemic-related health and safety concerns, mass labor shortages, and ever-changing travel regulations, there has never been a better time, or a greater need, for the industry to invest in Intelligent Automation and Conversational AI.

In this white paper, we examine how Conversational AI will help the travel and hospitality industry to not only recover but thrive in the post-pandemic world.

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