Air New Zealand teams with Google Assistant

December 15, 2017
Mobiles on Planes

Air New Zealand has become the latest carrier  — and the first in Australasia — to allow passengers to use Google’s automated voice system to make inquiries.

The New Zealand carrier is giving customers a hands-free way to ask about a range of topics such as check-in and baggage limits using Google Assistant.

It is already looking at expanding the voice assistant’s capabilities to introduce the ability to sign into a booking or a frequent flyer account.

“Voice is a growing channel and therefore it’s important that we offer this as an option for customers to interact with us,’’ said Air New Zealand digital officer Avi Golan. “ We see voice as playing a particularly useful role on the day of travel, giving customers who may have their hands full with last minute travel preparations, the ability to check travel information without having to manually look it up on a device.”

Airlines and other companies are increasingly looking at artificial intelligence to deal with customer inquiries.

United Airlines has also released apps for Google Assistant and teamed with online giant Amazon to use its Alexa voice recognition service to allow customers to check in and ask a variety of questions.

Online chatbots are also becoming common.

Air New Zealand has a chatbot called Oscar, Jetstar’s is called Jess, Qantas has the more formal Concierge and Singapore Airlines recently introduced Kris.

The Kiwi carrier said Oscar, introduced in February, was now dealing with about 900 conversations a day on flight, baggage, frequent flyer and lounge queries.

Its performance had steadily improved and it now boasts a success rate of more than 70 per cent.

“Our Google Assistant app is backed by the same in-house developed Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that powers our chatbot Oscar and we’ve applied learnings and insights gleaned from Oscar’s introduction to build our Google Assistant offering,” Mr Golan said.

In other Australasian news, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia announced Thursday they would provide customers with an expanded schedule of flights on the Auckland-Brisbane route.

This would see five extra flights per week deliver an additional 38,000 seats between April and October, 2018, giving travellers the choice of 34 return services per week.

The alliance will also retime its flights to provide better connections.

Air NZ chief revenue officer Cam Wallace said demand for trans-Tasman travel remained strong and the 10 per cent boost in winter capacity was aimed at growing the market with Virgin.