Surfboard? Kid’s car seat? Hawaiian baggage bot aims to help.

August 01, 2018
Hawaiian baggage bot online help
Baggage bot has your back. Image: Hawaiian.

Heading off on an Hawaiian holiday and not sure just quite how to pack the surfboard?

No worries: Hawaiian Airlines has introduced a new “baggage bot” aimed at ending the need to trawl through endless web pages to find answers to your luggage laments.

The baggage bot is another example of how airlines are harnessing artificial intelligence to help customers more easily find answers to their questions.

Hawaiian has been training the bot in the art of answering baggage questions for several months and deployed it earlier this year in a beta test so it could start interacting with passengers.

So far,  it’s managed to answer 85 percent of baggage-related questions and it now has an arsenal of about 250 responses.

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“We developed the Baggage Bot as a way to provide quick and concise answers for our guests as they prepare to travel,” said Hawaiian senior director of online experience Tracy Behler. “The Bot allows our guests to get the specific answers that they need – whether it’s shipping a surfboard or how to transport pineapples – and to get them fast.”

The trick for bots is not so much having the answers but being able to understand the questions, so we decided to take the baggage bot for a short spin.

Overall it did pretty well and the answers seemed comprehensive.

One question we’re often asked is:  “Can I use a child car seat on my flight?”

“Car seats and booster seats are not required but can be used onboard if you have purchased a seat for your child,’’ baggage bot told us. “Car seats must be FAA-approved and labeled for use on airplanes.

“If your car seat is rear-facing, please notify an agent when you check-in at the airport that you’ll be using it onboard.”

We also tried a badly-worded question with: “How to do transport my surf board?”

Baggage bot: “The fee to take a surfboard is $US100 per way between North America and Hawaii, $US35 per way between Hawaiian Islands, and $US150 per way for International flights

“Pack your boards in a padded board bag. Each board bag can have any number of boards but the loaded bag may not exceed 50 pounds (23 kg) and 115 inches (292 cm) in length (131 inches for travel between Hawaiian Islands). Any bag larger or heavier will not be accepted.

“For travel to and from Australia and New Zealand, you may use a board bag as one of your two free checked bags.”

But we did hit a speed bump. When asked how much cabin baggage we could take, baggage bot gave a long spiel on checked baggage fees. The same occurred when we asked about hand luggage.

Several reformulations of the question all produced the same response.

It was only when we used the American term “carry-on” that the answer came back.

“Each guest is allowed 1 carry-on of up to 25 pounds plus a personal item such as a purse, laptop bag, or small backpack,’’ it said.

“The maximum size of your carry-on, including wheels and handles, is 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches (56 cm x 36 cm x 23 cm)

“There is no charge, but anything beyond the allowance must be checked at our normal rates.”

Baggage bot is currently on Hawaiian Airline’s contact page but we think it could be more prominent.