Going above and beyond in travel and transportation

Setting the right goals to achieve pragmatic benefits from embedded artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence in travel and transportation is still in its infant stages compared to the steps some other industries have taken with regard to modernizing and computerizing their business processes, but the potential for AI to make an incredible impact on the way airlines, in particular, operate is extremely high. The amount of data airlines create on a daily basis is more than enough to confront some of the challenges they face regarding scheduling, pricing, and cost, but also can help create a better experience for their customers, resulting in higher customer satisfaction, increased loyalty, and, by proxy, more tickets sold.

In order to properly institute these machine learning systems, however, companies must take a holistic view of their current capabilities and operations and mold a plan that represents a step forward in technological capacity but is also attainable considering their short term infrastructure. Setting goals too high will only result in the whole system losing functionality and eventually collapsing, while starting out too small will leave you struggling to keep up with the rapid evolution of business in an increasingly automated era. Alignment from leadership down is necessary to ensure expectations are properly set and punctually achieved.

Constructing artificial intelligence programs should begin with a customer-centric mindset, finding ways to directly improve the customer’s experience using personalized, data-driven solutions. This process begins from the moment someone buys an airline ticket and continues well after the flight is over, working to make the customer feel more connected with and appreciated by the company.

Easy, online ticketing and seat changes is already the industry standard, but further improvements before the flight takes off include the use of customer data to offer customized incentives to purchase upgrades, as well as real-time flight-tracking systems that can take information from the airplane and relay it directly to the consumer via text message or an app notification. The uses of real-time data go beyond just delayed flights as well; updates for rebooking opportunities and baggage arrivals can also be automated through the use of artificial intelligence.

After the flight is over, going above and beyond the basic services of an airline is what will set you apart. After accumulating so much data, app users and loyalty program members should receive small thank you gifts personalized to their location or historical trends. These gifts can come in many forms, among them discounts w ride-sharing or taxis, coupons and vouchers for food items, but the possibilities are numerous. The key to every part of this process is the data collected throughout, allowing you to refine the quality of the operations over time. The more data obtained for each passenger or each flight at each airport allows for more specific recommendations, better response times, and improved communication at every level.

But the customer isn’t the only one who can directly benefit from the construction of new machine learning systems. Improving efficiency in day-to-day business operations and thereby reducing costs and improving profitability. Something as simple as optimizing flight and crew scheduling can minimize lost time and make an impact on the bottom line. But computers can go even further, with some even capable of predicting delays, allowing the company to preempt them and schedule around them or make the appropriate arrangements to offset them. Datasets can also be used to predict maintenance needs by tracking airplane usage and comparing it against historical data on other planes and when they needed repairs. This allows teams to attack them before they become emergencies and costlier than need be.

Similarly, we can predict demand for airfare using past data as well. Everyone knows more people fly around the holidays, but which companies can take advantage of small upticks in demand throughout the year? These are the kind of questions that determine which airlines are capitalizing on the most potential sales and keeping their customers happy, and which ones end up with too few flights available and too many passengers stuck on layaway.