United transforms travel experience with Agent on Demand

Sometimes technology can feel like the enemy — a new way for vendors to pass the buck when their products or services malfunction. It’s the chatbot that pops up when you think your identity was stolen, the digitized voice at the other end of an emergency call, that text message informing you that your flight has been cancelled with a link to, ugh, another electronic assist link. For that reason, United Airlines developed “Agent on Demand,” an initiative that harnesses technology to deliver a live human being over United’s AWS cloud in times of trouble, earning the airlines a CIO 100 Award for innovation and leadership. Jason Birnbaum, senior vice president of digital technology at United, launched the customer service on United’s e-Cloud with a technology partner amid the pandemic, both to accommodate social distancing and to provide an improved experience for distraught travelers. Work began in late 2020 on the service, which enables customers to connect through a live video/audio session to a United agent who can, in times of traveler uncertainty and stress, make new reservations on-the-fly, assuage worries about gate changes, and even upgrade the passenger’s seating on their next flight. 

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