How 4 travel brands are using AI for a better experience
When you think of AI transforming businesses, travel probably isn't the first industry to come to mind. Still, brands like Delta, JetBlue, Kayak and the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas are using the technology to improve their customer experience in innovative ways.
And of course, AI has increasingly become a priority for marketers. In fact, 55% of them believe AI will have a bigger impact on marketing than social media ever had, according to Weber Shandwick. Healthcare, manufacturing and customer service are among those most cited as the industries machine learning will transform. Travel is a market that’s less discussed in relation to AI, but also has plenty of potential.
JetBlue has experimented with AI to make the airport less of a nightmare. Live streaming security camera footage, the airline tracks select people on the TSA line to gauge how quickly it’s moving. Combining that information with Waze traffic data, JetBlue can determine exactly how long it will take someone to get from their house to the gate.
“If I can tell you before you leave your house that your flight is two hours delayed, you can spend those two extra hours with your family… or at the bar,” says Ramki Ramaswamy, the airline’s VP of IT, Technology and Integrations. “It’s the same with how long you’ll have to wait at the airport.”
Delta: Biometric boarding/bag check
Security isn’t the only line that causes congestion at the airport. There’s also the baggage line, which Delta is speeding up at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Earlier this year, Delta installed four kiosks, which the airline said could move passengers through the line twice as quickly, that served as virtual check-in agents. Using facial recognition technology, they scanned people’s faces and compared them to their passport photos. Customers tagged their own bags, paid the fee and then dropped their luggage on the conveyor belt themselves.
Similarly, Delta opened up fingerprint scanning to loyalty program members in Washington over the summer. Bypassing boarding passes and IDs, those passengers can use their fingers to board planes and enter lounges.
Kayak: Embracing voice search
She has thousands of capabilities, but Alexa’s most-used skill is search. In 2016, Google reported that 30% of queries are related to a specific location. Put those together, and voice search is increasingly important for travelers.
Travel search engine Kayak recognizes this. With its Amazon integration, Kayak users can ask Alexa to search for flights and rental cars, track flights, and figure out where they can travel on a certain budget.
“Voice shopping is very niche right now and we want to change that. We want to book hotels, flights, activities: anything that involves travel,” says Dr. Matthias Keller, Chief Scientist at Kayak, who sees digital assistants evolving to become more visual and integrated with other devices.
“A lot of tasks work as voice-only. Others, like looking at maps, need display and can come on smartphone or car screens,” he adds. The future involves both.”
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas: Chatbot concierge
Chatbots are a common entrypoint for brands integrating AI. They provider customer service, educate people about, and even upsell, products. The Cosmopolitan has taken chatbots one step further with a virtual concierge named Rose, who has her own playful personality (she’ll play Would You Rather with you) and a number that guests can text at any time, with any request.
Rose provides guest services, such as dispatching towels and toiletries, and ordering food. But she also gives tours of the hotel’s art gallery and provides dining recommendations, making guests feel like insiders who are being taken care of. That’s crucial, given how totally overwhelming Las Vegas can be. The Cosmopolitan is 110,000 square feet with 20 restaurants; it’s still only the 13th biggest property on the Strip.