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United books AI into weather alerts

Airline uses AI tools to send travellers information about their trip, especially if things don’t go as planned.

United Airlines now texts customers links to local, live radar maps during weather delays, as part of an effort to give travellers as much real-time information as possible about their trip, especially if things don’t go as planned. 

For the past few years, the airline has used dedicated teams to write and send text messages to customers that give details about a given flight – from gate changes and boarding times to more specifics regarding aircraft swaps, crew rescheduling and weather events. Now the teams use generative artificial intelligence (gen AI) tools to assist in giving more travellers real-time updates during flight delays.

Real-time radar maps can help customers understand how inclement weather in one part of the country can impact a flight elsewhere. United is the first US airline currently providing these kinds of specific messages, with assistance from gen AI tools.

“With more people traveling this summer than ever, we wanted to give our customers an easier way to stay connected to real-time information about their flight and texting was the simplest solution,” says Jason Birnbaum, United Airlines chief information officer. “We know customers appreciate transparency and by combining innovative technology-enabled tools with people power, we can give more people, even more in-the-moment details about their flight.”

The release of these new innovations came as United expected its busiest Fourth of July weekend on record, with more than five million passengers flying between 28 June and 8 July, up more than 7% compared to last year.

Here’s how it works:

  • Specialised customer service teams sit in the network operations center alongside the flight operations teams and tap gen AI to review flight data and write customer messages that tells the complete story of a flight change. These messages are sent to customers through text or email in an effort to provide more helpful and relevant information about why flight plans are changing.
  • During weather events, messages will include links to local, live radar maps showing weather details across flight paths. This helps customers stay informed on weather-related delays, including showing how weather in one part of the country can impact a flight elsewhere. Plus, customers on all flights can access links to weather maps in the United Airlines app under flight status updates, and United displays radar maps in the gate area when a flight has been delayed due to weather.

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