Currently available at Chicago O’Hare and Houston George Bush International Airports, the pilot program is expected to expand to other United Airlines airport hubs around the U.S. by the end of the year, including Denver, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, New Jersey, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The new agent on-demand program enables travelers to skip the line at the information desk by either scanning one of the QR-codes displayed on United Airlines signage throughout the participating airports or accessing a self-service kiosk located in United gate areas in order to be connected with a live customer service representative. Passengers have the option to chat with the airline representatives via call, text, or video. Unlike calling United’s traditional 1-800 customer service number, the “virtual” United agents are able to assist with seat assignments, standby and upgrade lists, boarding times, as well as offer help with other relevant real-time customer travel questions and requests. This both helps minimize the wait and queueing for a physical gate agent, while also allowing that agent to focus on other critical pre-departure duties.The United Airlines Virtual Agent On-Demand offering is able to translate more than 100 languages back to English, ensuring passengers can communicate with United’s customer service agents in their preferred language while traveling.
“We know how important it is for our customers to have more options for a contactless travel experience and this tool makes it easy to quickly receive personalized support directly from a live agent at the airport while maintaining social distancing,” Linda Jojo, United's executive vice president for technology and chief digital officer, said in a statement.
On-Demand chat support and touchless virtual assistance is a growing trend across the many new solutions being offered by travel providers, operators, and airlines. Spurred in part by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as advances in consumer technology, these new solutions aim to increasingly digitize the travel journey, making the passenger experience more seamless, contactless, and personalized across all touchpoints. For example, the innovation team at Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) airport recently completed the trial of an AI-powered digital-human concierge at one of their terminals. In partnership with IBM Watson’s AI-technology platform, and using Soul Machines software to put a human “face” on the offering, the pilot initiative by DFW saw the digital human concierge provide passengers at the airport with on-demand voice-based answers to their questions from its kiosk in a way similar to how two people would talk to each other.
For a deeper dive into this topic, check out PSFK’s latest report which describes seven trends with supporting examples of innovation, stats and quotes. In it, the PSFK team showcases how grocers are doubling down on their store experience through enhanced merchandising, sustainability and convenience.