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How United Airlines uses AI to make flying the friendly skies a bit easier | TechCrunch

Apr 21, 2024 -
United Airlines is increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline its operations and improve customer service. The airline uses AI to coordinate work between gate agents, flight attendants, and others involved in ensuring timely departures. AI also generates most of the delay notifications sent to passengers via text and the United app. The company recently launched an AI customer service chatbot and is exploring the use of generative AI to summarize flight information for operations teams and to assist pilots with pre-flight announcements.

United's CIO, Jason Birnbaum, who oversees the tech team, also discussed the company's ongoing shift to cloud services. United has chosen AWS as its preferred cloud provider and is focusing on optimizing its cloud usage for cost and reliability. The company is cautious about transitioning from legacy systems to avoid disrupting operations. Birnbaum also highlighted that while United is investing heavily in AI and cloud technologies, it will continue to operate some on-premises systems for performance, privacy, or security reasons.

Key takeaways:

  • United Airlines is heavily investing in AI and cloud technologies to improve its operations and customer service. This includes an AI customer service chatbot and AI-generated messages to explain flight delays.
  • Jason Birnbaum, United’s CIO, leads a team of over 1,500 employees and about 2,000 contractors who are responsible for the tech that makes these innovations possible.
  • United is also in the process of moving services into the cloud, with AWS as its preferred cloud provider. The company is looking at how to optimize its cloud usage, from both a cost and reliability perspective.
  • United is exploring further uses of AI, such as a tool called "Get Me Close" that offers customers alternative airports during delays, and potentially using AI to help pilots with in-flight announcements and summarizing complex technical documents.
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