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Meet Oscar: Air New Zealand's virtual travel assistant
Posted on 16/10/2017

CultureNew Zealand

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Australia is readying to welcome Oscar the robot, Air New Zealand's newest employee as well as its first endeavor into artificial intelligence.

Air New Zealand's virtual travel assistant

Air New Zealand's virtual travel assistant
©lightwise/123RF

Since February of 2017, Air New Zealand has gotten a brand-new employee of a rather unique caliber. Bravo Oscar Tango, or just Oscar, is the airline's first ever chat-bot and New Zealand's debut venture into using artificial intelligence within the airline industry.

Oscar is a friendly and enthusiastic robot with an active presence on Air New Zealand's website. He serves the purpose of answering commonly asked questions from customers and generally helping out clients on a daily basis. He is in essence a virtual travel assistant and can provide additional information on flight bookings, baggage allowances and answers to last minute questions on the day of travel. Apparently he can also sing and tell jokes!

Oscar the chat-bot has so far been hugely successful for Air New Zealand. This is largely due to the fact that clientele find Oscar more user-friendly, favoring this type of unique and personal mode of communication. Ironically, despite being a robot, Oscar offers a more "human" experience for customers, a refreshing change from scrolling monotonously through the FAQ sections of websites, struggling to find a direct and accurate response to your specific query.

The way Oscar works is through learning directly from customer language. He builds on his data base of questions and answers each time he helps out a customer. This method has proved successful, but is understandably a gradual process. For example on day one Oscar could provide the answers to 7% of questions asked, this has since increased by 60%.

Avi Golan, the chief digital officer at Air New Zealand stated in Travel Daily that "In the past 90 days Oscar has had around 55,000 conversations, typically receiving between 300 and 350 queries a day. On a busy day, he'll receive more than 1,000 queries, with his peak demand times mirroring those of our call centre."

Oscar's next adventure takes him Down Under as he turns to help out Air New Zealand's Australian-based customers. His role will predominantly stay the same, but he reportedly has had to learn some specific Aussie lingo, so he can be as helpful as possible to his new clientele.