AI drives innovation for Finnair employees and customers

By | 3 minute read | February 11, 2020

man on plane

Following the worldwide trend, today’s airline industry is increasingly digital. Customers spend more time buying tickets and ancillaries online and consuming digital services as they travel. Employees, meanwhile, require the right digital tools to provide an excellent customer experience.

That’s why we at Finnair place artificial intelligence (AI) technology at the heart of our digital transformation.

AI can accelerate the pace of innovation. By enabling personalized services, it can improve customer satisfaction and boost revenues. AI solutions can increase operational efficiency. And AI powered tools and devices improve the employee experience, enabling them to deliver even better service.

Innovative AI use cases

Working with IBM and other partners, we’re developing AI solutions in an iterative process that starts with collecting data from paper and various internal and partner systems. Once we understand the data’s significance, we analyze it to generate insights. Then, we link these insights to connected technologies that deliver them to user devices.

Although it’s still early, we’re encouraged by the results of applying this process to innovative use cases.

Consider, for example, aircraft line maintenance. Mechanics now use iPhone apps developed with IBM and Apple to help automate and document formerly manual processes. We believe AI predictive analytics can reduce unplanned maintenance from 60 percent down to 10 percent or less, which should speed aircraft turnaround between flights.

We’re also testing a predictive application to minimize the impact of weather on travel schedules. Using machine learning, the solution analyzes historical flight and weather data along with runway capacities and current forecasts to help us prepare for coming storms. We are pleased by initial findings that show improved flight punctuality.

Virtual assistants deliver instant response

Our 250 customer service agents get an AI assist from a virtual assistant they consult to answer customer questions. Conversant in multiple languages and fast enough to use while talking to customers, the virtual assistant gleans answers from millions of lines of historical service conversations. In our tests, it halves the time customers spend on hold and will soon directly respond to common queries.

Another pilot virtual assistant improves the experience of our 6,700 employees by answering HR policy questions in natural language. Powered by IBM Watson technology, the assistant can converse about sick days and travel discounts for employees and their families. It is online 24/7 from the cloud, serving personnel regardless of their time zone and location.

Exploring the future

In the future, we expect AI-powered assistants will help employees throughout the employment lifecycle. Virtual assistants could assist with daily tasks from the minute an employee leaves home to the workday’s end, and even after retirement to maintain connection to the Finnair community.

Additionally, AI-informed data visualizations could help create seamless operational flows, enabling faster and more reliable decision making, positively affecting both customers and employees.

By making use of augmented and virtual reality digital twin models, line maintenance mechanics, for instance, could practice their craft in immersive environments that simulate situations they will encounter on the runway. And during flights, virtual experiences could be customized to travelers’ interests and destinations, creating a new, immersive in-flight experience.

And with our focus on sustainability, AI has the potential to improve results by enabling real-time data analysis and decision making. For example, waste from airplanes could be reduced by creating personalized services for customers, and by having a better understanding of passenger load factors.

Whether here today or on the drawing board, AI solutions can drive innovations that improve employee decisions, boost customer satisfaction and decrease our carbon footprint. These benefits are central to Finnair’s mission of delivering the best possible sustainable flight experience.

Watch Patrik Etelävuori discuss how Finnair uses AI to make decision-making proactive: