Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

CX Redefined: Trendsetting Use Cases of Gen AI in Aviation

From Virtual Agents to Critical Maintenance, Gen AI Transforms Airline Operations
CX Redefined: Trendsetting Use Cases of Gen AI in Aviation
Image: Shutterstock

The aviation industry has fast realized the potential of digital technologies to reshape its growth trajectory. Gen AI has increasingly garnered the attention of tech and business leaders in the aviation sector. Several promising use cases for gen AI have emerged in the past year, including customized offers, route optimization, dynamic pricing, staff training and customer support. At scale, these use cases are capable of redefining experience for both travelers and staffers.

See Also: Healthcare Edition: Trends in Generative AI Tool Adoption and Security Challenges

Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques, SITA - a company specializing in providing IT and telecom services to the aviation industry - recently updated its Meet the Megatrends report. The report examines 12 emerging technological, societal, traveler and economic trends that will significantly influence the travel landscape by 2033. Notably, 97% airline companies are planning a program to develop generative AI. In 71% airports, advancements in AI, machine learning and computer vision are being established through collaboration with innovation partners and technology companies. AI solutions have been implemented in 31% airports; however, in 36% airports, implementation is expected by the end of 2026. Only 3% of airlines said they had no plans to invest in AI technologies. In addition, according to the SITA's 2023 IT Insights report, 16% airports already use AI and ML for improved decision-making, with another 51% confirming that they have plans to implement AI solutions by the end of 2026.

Image source: SITA

The International Air Transport Association, IATA - the trade association of airlines - organized a collaborative brainstorming session called Innovation Day 2023, which led to a multidimensional exploration of AI use cases, challenges and risks. Prior to the event, a survey gauged the interest of potential use cases and identified promising solutions, covering a variety of industry-specific domains. The members of the Digital Transformation Advisory Council, DTAC, and event participants narrowed down the list to the 10 most promising topics (see the chart below):

Image source: IATA

The last year witnessed significant announcements - and a consequent increase in public attention - related to gen AI and LLM platforms including ChatGPT, Claude 2 and Bard. Capturing the public's imagination and the rapid evolution of the transformative technology, the aviation industry has also begun speculating over the future of their products and services in a shifting technological landscape.

Delta Air Lines

During its investor conference, Delta Air Lines executives informed that it has started using AI to assist in pricing and to promptly disseminate information on procedures to reservations agents. The pricing utilization has already been rolled out. "Our initial foray into AI is on the customer service side," said CEO Ed Bastian. "We're working with our reservations team to help reservations agents parse the historical policies and questions and things that you may call into a real agent."

AI-based models can help the agents answer passenger questions quickly. Delta plans to increase its asset value by 2% using AI technology to solve complex issues that involve large quantities of data. However, to deploy AI at scale, the airline company wants to ensure that their datasets are clean, without which AI models are susceptible to hallucinations.

JetBlue

In their White Paper, the Boston Consulting Group, BCG, reported that JetBlue - a U.S.-based airline - has partnered with a technology vendor to implement a packaged generative AI-enabled solution to drive automation and augmentation of its chat channel, helping its contact center provide customer service. The contact center has thus been able to save an average of 280 seconds per chat, which yields into approximately 73,000 hours of agent time saved in just one quarter.

JetBlue aims to provide a more responsive chat channel that can enhance the overall experience for its passengers. Automation through generative AI will allow the airline to achieve greater efficiency in handling routine tasks. At scale, AI will help handle larger volumes of customer queries during peak load.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines' new AI tool improves its maintenance operations using an AI startup AIXI; the tool helps in generating a database of discrepancies and suggests fixes for Southwest's 800-aircraft fleet. It also helps engineers detect the defects, thereby ensuring faster maintenance. AIXI has a large language model specifically created for aviation sector to facilitate predictive maintenance, root-cause identification, corrective action determination and record classification. The tool understands a technician's entry and converts that into complete, correct and detailed descriptions of the problem. Solutions like these have the potential to translate and transform maintenance records of large machineries, including aircrafts, and provide contextual information critical for repairs, rebuilding, inspections and modifications.

Lufthansa

Using OpenAI services, Lufthansa's Digital Hangar is leveraging various aspects of generative AI - including content creation, conversation servicing and text-related automation - to enhance customer experience. Employees have access to relevant documentation, regulations and guidelines for training the AI model effectively. Lufthansa aims to leverage AI to transform its app into a personalized conversation, acting as a concierge service to offer customized suggestions to its travelers.

"While technological challenges are not a major hurdle, ensuring the quality and up-to-date data is a significant challenge. Differentiating use cases for generative AI in the travel industry lie in enhancing the overall experience. Unlike other technologies, generative AI is readily accessible, requiring no extensive setup. However, compliance with internal regulations, local laws and ethical concerns remains crucial," said Christian Spannbauer, CTO of Lufthansa's Digital Hangar.

Emirates

UAE's premier airline company Emirates aims to use generative AI for enhancing customer experience and training its cabin crew. Emirates and Amazon Web Services, AWS, have signed an agreement to develop an immersive extended reality, iXR, platform and capability for the Emirates Group's cabin crew training. iXR is powered by AWS spatial computing and AI to deliver technical capabilities with photorealistic experiences. In its first phase, iXR will be used as a collaborative hub and social space for cabin crew training and employee onboarding.

"Our vision is to build a meaningful, practical and rewarding XR capability that takes advantage of AI technology," said Adel Al Redha, COO of Emirates. The airline is planning to develop an app in the future that combines the power of generative AI and AI.

Air India

One of India's largest airlines, Air India claims to be the world's first airline to introduce a generative AI virtual agent, named Maharaja. The agent is powered by Microsoft Azure OpenAI service, and it responded to more than a million customer queries and was last reported to be handling more than 6,000 daily queries in Hindi, English, German and French. It handles a variety of customer queries across 1,300 domains including flight status, baggage allowances, check-in, packing restrictions, airport lounge access, frequent flyer awards, refunds and flight changes.

"We are dedicated to providing the best possible service and experience to our guests across channels," said Satya Ramaswamy, chief digital and technology officer at Air India. "We want to be very responsive to their changing preferences. After the emergence of LLM-driven generative AI capabilities, we are increasingly seeing a definitive shift in guest preferences to use chat interactions to get the information and support they need quickly and directly as compared to browsing several webpages."

Heathrow Airport, London

Heathrow Airport, London - one of the busiest airports in the world - has deployed a new generative AI technology from Capgemini to boost customer experience. This is part of Heathrow's "AI for customer experience" initiative and offers e-commerce and other passenger services including four dedicated AI assistants designed for a "hyper-personalized" experience. It has a synthetic design assistant, personalized chatbots, a content and knowledge assistant for customer care services, and a product and offers knowledge assistant.

Based on the initial success, Capgemini has launched a dedicated generative AI lab to research the most relevant use cases for technology and collaborations with businesses or academia. In a Technavio study, the use of AI in the aviation sector is projected to grow substantially, with an estimated CAGR of 43.13% between 2022 and 2027. AI tools may eventually play a major role in the aviation industry by assisting airlines in scheduling, route optimization and improved crew management. Valuer - a platform that tracks startup innovation - suggests emergence of 157 new startups dedicated to creating AI tools for airlines since 2019, which hints at the imminent transformative shift industry is aiming to achieve in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the amalgamation of AI and data analytics can help airlines achieve better efficiency, CX and maintenance at a lower cost.


About the Author

Rahul Neel Mani

Rahul Neel Mani

Founding Director of Grey Head Media and Vice President of Community Engagement and Editorial, ISMG

Neel Mani is responsible for building and nurturing communities in both technology and security domains for various ISMG brands. He has more than 25 years of experience in B2B technology and telecom journalism and has worked in various leadership editorial roles in the past, including incubating and successfully running Grey Head Media for 11 years. Prior to starting Grey Head Media, he worked with 9.9 Media, IDG India and Indian Express.




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