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At United, Customer Service is Going Virtual

To improve the passenger experience and reduce in-person contact, United Airlines will offer a virtual service option for flyers at the airport. Scanning a QR code will connect flyers to an “Agent on Demand,” giving them the chance to chat or call with support staff for routine service needs.

United Airlines is launching a new customer service tool for flyers at their hub airports, but it won’t require more staff at crowded desks. Instead, the Chicago-based carrier is rolling out a virtual “Agent on Demand” option, giving flyers direct access to the airline’s customer service team from their smartphones.

Agent On Demand Offers Text, Call, or Video Chat Options at Airports

According to United, the new option was created as flyers demand more touchless travel options. Instead of standing in line to speak to the next available agent, flyers will soon be able to use their phones to get in touch with customer support.

To get started, United flyers can scan a QR barcode displayed on signs throughout the airport, or approach a self-service kiosk. Customers can choose to connect via text, phone call, or video chat based on their preference. When the agent answers, they can do all of the tasks of an in-person employee, including answer questions about seat assignments, upgrades, flight status and standby list status.

The virtual agent service won’t be limited to just English. The chat feature will support over 100 different languages, allowing travelers to converse in the language they are most comfortable with. The app will automatically translate between the customer service agent and the flyer.

“We know how important it is for our customers to have more options for a contactless travel experience,” Linda Jojo, executive vice president for technology and chief digital officer at United, said in the press release. “And this tool makes it easy to quickly receive personalized support directly from a live agent at the airport while maintaining social distancing.”

Agent on Demand via smartphones is currently available at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), while the kiosks are installed at both Chicago and Denver International Airport (DEN). The airline will roll out the technology to all of their hubs by the end of 2020.

Agent On Demand Augments Cleaning and Touchless Engagement Options

United’s shift to virtual agent support at hub airports is another example of how the carrier is encouraging safe practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier in the year, the airline rolled out their CleanPlus Initiative with Clorox to improve sanitation and reduce touchpoints, with the goal to minimize flyers risk of contracting the virus.

Feature image courtesy: United Airlines

MRM December 23, 2020

So how long will you have to wait for "real" physical help? My guess is just as long or longer than it already takes to wait in line at the counter.

RogueViator December 15, 2020

This is the beginning. The future will be Artificial Intelligence (with probably a hologram) replacing plenty of functions from check-in desks to lounge entrances to probably even ATC. All companies will do is have 1 or 2 human supervisors to approve rule exceptions but otherwise things will be AI-based.