How AI for airlines can transform operations and elevate customer experiences
According to the December 2023 IATA report, the number of air passenger journeys will more than double by 2040. Where you find growth opportunities, you find the challenge to stand out from your competitors and connect with your customers. AI is an incredibly powerful tool to support, transform, and enhance experiences as no other — if applied thoroughly and correctly.
How is AI used in aviation today? Some current examples
As we dive into the application of AI for the passenger experience and ground operations, let’s first look at current applications of AI by some airlines.
airBaltic chose to apply question-and-answer type tools driven by AI for tasks that can be automated. This includes employee onboarding and researching company details or finding information in flight operations manuals.
While not groundbreaking, these tools open up employee time to focus on more demanding tasks that can’t be done by AI. airBaltic is also exploring AI solutions for ancillary product pricing based on passenger demand and preferences. With these explorations, the carrier is laying the groundwork for innovation through automation.
As for Air Alaska — it has chosen flight-path programming to explore AI possibilities. The program Flyways looks for optimal flight paths with AI-driven analytics. By looking at factors such as the original route, current weather conditions, and the weight of the aircraft, it can set the most efficient course.
Southwest Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines, and Lufthansa are some other carriers that are looking at AI for innovation. With AI tools for data analytics, they can for example predict flight routes, cancellations, and delays.
Ready for AI aviation innovation? Pitfalls and challenges
AI creates enormous value in enhancing passenger experiences. However, it can’t be extended to every and any part of operations. A lot depends on the airline’s ability for reliable data collection and how airlines can process this data.
Your data input is crucial to get trustworthy results with AI. This means working with systems that are AI-proof and can collect data fast and efficiently. Unfortunately, the aviation landscape often works with legacy technologies.
As Amy Burr, president of JetBlue Ventures, points out: “The industry has a tech stack that’s very old and antiquated. The systems are old. And plugging in new technology is very challenging and very time-consuming.”
Involve an AI expert to make sure that the data input is trustworthy. They will drive your AI aviation projects by ensuring reliable data collection. An additional way of solving the data input issue is working with cutting-edge technology that can easily integrate with your existing systems.
Bob’s TravelTag, for example, doesn’t require big investments in infrastructure to work efficiently. The tracking system works with Bluetooth, and information is collected in the cloud. As such, it’s a prime example of fast, reliable, and cost-effective data collection.
To ensure high-quality data collection, it’s equally important to assess what data you need to be successful. Too much data can endanger results and unchecked data can spark privacy risks. Make sure to work with a data privacy expert to define what data you need to reach your customer experience goals.
Once you are confident about the quality of your data collection, you can start applying AI for analysis, automation, and reporting. With AI for data analytics, such as Power BI or Polymer, you can reveal patterns and make predictions.
What exactly would that look like for the aviation industry?
AI in aviation: elevating the passenger experience
With 7.8 billion annual air passengers, making customers feel delighted by your airline will be key to ensuring loyalty and emotional engagement. Personalization efforts can ensure passengers will be tied to your brand. And the opposite is true, too: brands risk losing 38 percent of customers because of poor marketing personalization efforts.
However, airlines haven’t yet embraced the personalized marketing trends, as in sectors like retail and e-commerce. Forbes has already reported that the aviation industry is missing out on the massive potential to improve the passenger experience. So, what can airlines do today, tomorrow, and in the long-term future with AI to build customer loyalty?
A picture is worth a thousand words
With Bob’s TravelTag, passengers can take a picture of their suitcase. By analyzing these user-uploaded suitcase pictures, AI can extract important metadata. Just think of information such as color, shape, and type of luggage.
This analysis gives airlines and airports important insights to improve baggage handling and mishandled luggage procedures. If you know for example that bags of a certain color or size or more likely to be lost for a longer time, you can motivate passengers to identify this luggage with a notable tag.
Cracking the code: looking for patterns in baggage mishandling
Imagine that you have a massive data set with daily reports on lost luggage. You also receive a data set with detailed weather analytics or staff attendance. This is where you can start cross-referencing data and see patterns appear.
Is your airline more likely to lose bags on certain days of the week? What influence does the weather have on mishandled luggage? What staff attendance rate has a significant impact on successful baggage handling?
These are the insights you need to start building your long-term strategy for mishandled luggage. Airlines can use them to fill in the gaps and ensure a smooth baggage experience, regardless of external factors.
Chatbot charm: lost baggage support and learning
If the airline loses a bag, the passenger has to file the Property Irregularity Report (PIR). Airlines follow the procedures as stipulated in their lost luggage incidents manual. However, passengers are often left feeling frustrated as they are not being sufficiently supported or helped.
This is again where you can explore the possibilities of AI to improve customer happiness. A chatbot might be the first solution to giving passengers a communication channel. Airlines can then further analyze insights from chats to optimize their lost baggage services.
What are common questions and problems? How can you anticipate these worries and make sure your passengers are being heard? Generative AI, which produces various types of content based on input such as text, can fast-track the tedious lost baggage processes.
A note on AI for data analytics: the human touch
The examples above show a couple of possibilities of AI in aviation. The main challenge for airlines will lie in embracing these new technologies, while also ensuring a human approach. Striking the right balance between automation and human interaction will be vital for delivering a meaningful customer experience.
Make sure that your passengers have a way of following progress and receiving real-time information. With live Bluetooth baggage data tools, such as Bob’s TravelTag, you can ensure a human connection. Your passengers can follow their personal belongings from the comfort of their seats.
This sensation of peace of mind showcases how the right implementation of technology can bring you closer to your passengers than ever before.
Conclusion: taking passenger experience to new heights with AI
Imagine a future where each suitcase tells a unique story. Through the lens of AI and our innovative TravelTag product, airlines now have new ways to connect with their passengers. With the insights of TravelTag, they can enhance the passenger experience as well as increase operational efficiency.
Curious to learn more? Contact us now for more information!