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How United Airlines employs AI to ease the process of flying in friendly skies

by Digital Bull
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United Airlines

When you board a United Airlines plane, the behind-the-scenes coordination by gate agents, flight attendants, and other staff is crucial to ensuring a smooth journey for passengers. Behind this seamless operation is a sophisticated system powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), making your travel experience more efficient and comfortable without you even realizing it.

United’s gate agents and flight attendants work in a virtual chatroom, handling tasks like managing carry-on bag space, checking on missing items like orange juice from caterers, and arranging seating for families. This real-time communication ensures that every detail is attended to for a hassle-free flight.

In cases of delays, passengers receive timely updates via text and the United app. These messages, explaining the situation, are often generated by AI algorithms. Meanwhile, dispatchers worldwide monitor real-time data to ensure the crew’s compliance with FAA regulations, ensuring safe and legal flights.

Recently, United unveiled its AI customer service chatbot, adding another layer of efficiency to its services. Spearheaded by Jason Birnbaum, United’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), a dedicated team of over 1,500 employees and 2,000 contractors is behind the technological marvels that streamline the airline’s operations.

united airlines

Jason Birnbaum, United’s CIO since 2022, brings a wealth of experience from his 16-year tenure at GE. His journey from technology manager to GE Consumer and Industrial’s CIO, based in Budapest, laid the foundation for his role at United. Since 2015, Birnbaum has spearheaded digital initiatives, such as ConnectionSaver, an AI-driven service that holds flights for passengers with tight connections.

United has made significant investments in cloud infrastructure, primarily leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS). This move aims to optimize costs and enhance reliability. Embracing DevOps practices and automation, United seeks to improve developer productivity while ensuring a seamless passenger experience.

Despite its shift to the cloud, United continues to operate legacy systems crucial to its operations. Birnbaum emphasizes the importance of a cautious approach to avoid disruptions. The airline plans to phase out more legacy systems, aiming to enhance performance, privacy, and security.

united airlines

United’s “Every flight has a story” initiative revolutionized passenger communication during delays. Gone are the days of generic notifications; AI now crafts personalized messages, providing insights into the reasons behind delays. By integrating data from various sources, United ensures passengers are informed and empowered.

United explores AI’s potential in summarizing complex flight information for operational teams. This streamlined approach enables quick decision-making and enhances operational efficiency.

“Get Me Close,” an upcoming tool by United, empowers passengers during delays by offering alternative airport options. This AI-driven feature aims to provide passengers with more flexibility and control over their travel plans.

Pilots play a crucial role in customer satisfaction. United is considering AI-generated announcements to ensure consistent and engaging interactions. This innovation aims to support pilots in delivering informative and personalized messages to passengers.

Generative AI holds potential in summarizing technical documents for pilots, aiding in quicker understanding and decision-making. United aims to improve pilot efficiency while maintaining strict adherence to aviation regulations.

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