Enhancing Passenger Experience: AI in In-Flight Services

London’s Heathrow Airport uses Einstein AI to entertain its customers. Alaskan Airlines saved tons of jet fuel on their flights with the help of AI. At the same time, Swiss International Air Lines saved USD 5.4 million last year only by implementing AI technology to calculate efficiency scenarios.

Aviation has entered the AI race. We may deem this start as successful. Now, as aviation companies implement artificial intelligence in different business aspects, let’s focus on customer comfort during the fight.

This article will discuss how aviation companies use artificial intelligence to enhance in-flight customer experience.

You’ll learn:
– The application of AI in aviation: general overview
– Smart cabins explained
– How connected cabin and AI make flight experience better
– The benefits of AI-powered customer experience

Let’s get started!

The application of AI in aviation: general overview

The ways to apply AI in aviation vary.

For example, the German aviation company Lufthansa uses AI and ML algorithms to predict winds blowing from the northeast to southwest Switzerland. The winds, causing delays, reduce the capacity of Zurich airport by up to 30%. AI, based on Google Cloud forecasting models, is helping to predict wind patterns and plan flights accordingly.

Boeing is building crewless airplanes based on AI autopilots. Airbus does the same. Four years ago, the first autonomous take-off and landing of a pilot version of Airbus’s driverless air taxi took place. The take-off and landing were based on AI-based image-recognition software that can recognize landscapes.

Last fall, Heathrow extended its partnership with a tech company, Capgemini, by striking a deal focusing on enhancing customer experience by collecting passenger insights. They are using Salesroce’s Einstein AI to navigate passengers through the airport, give information on baggage, etc.

Yet, Hethrow’s AI story is not limited by smarter customer experience. The airport partnered with Smiths Detection to train AI to detect illegal wildlife transportation. The Azure-based AI can scan up to 250,000 bags a day and achieve a more than 70% successful detection rate.

Interested in how aviation companies use AI to tackle documentation? Check our article OCR in Document Management for Aviation Companies for more details!

Yet, these are the on-the-ground applications of artificial intelligence. Now, AI systems have reached new heights, mainly 36,000 feet above sea level. Among numerous in-flight AI applications, those concerning smart cabin development are some of the most interesting.

What is a smart cabin?

The smart cabin is the combination of IoT and high-level computing to make aircraft cabins techier, which translates into enhanced safety and comfort. A typical smart cabin system includes sensors, equipment, and software that track customer behavior and adjust the round-the-seat environment to fit customer needs.

According to the Journal of Aerospace Technology and Management, the main aspects of smart cabins are cleaning, communication, entertainment, accessibility, connectivity, environment, safety, boarding service, support, and cabin comfort.

Smart cabin technology engineers typically experiment with materials and software to make the in-light environment better.

For example, Collins Aerospace has engineered an acoustic material that dampens noises from engines or conversations between other customers. The seat manufacturer, Recaro, is experimenting with self-cleaning seats. The seats will be infused with “a disinfectant that destroys almost every germ on contact within seconds” and will be covered with a newly developed anti-bacterial film. Another handy development comes from a group of researchers from Cranfield University in the UK. Their smarter Faucet system atomizes water to break it into a fine mist that is pushed under pressure. This system is effective enough to clean hands and save up to 90% of water.

With the implementation of AI, the possibilities of smart cabin systems expand even further. Now, aircraft service teams have personalized data on passengers, follow trends, and make prognoses. This brings the smart cabin experience to new heights.

How do smart cabins and AI make the flight experience better?

AI unlocks new opportunities to enhance smart cabin technology. With AI, things become faster, clearer, and cheaper. On the other hand, users get better onboarding, entertainment, meals, atmosphere, comfort, information, and connectivity. Let’s have a closer look:

Onboarding: AI algorithms allow the automation of cabin inspection, thus making onboarding and deboarding procedures more organized and faster. For example, smart systems can scan the environment for items left over so that passengers don’t return to pick them up as they deboard.

Entertainment: Smart-cabin technology uses AI to follow trends in customer preferences in video and audio content they use on the plane. For example, AI software remembers passengers’ favorite movies and builds suggestions based on their tastes. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies, driven by AI, offer passengers immersive in-flight entertainment and educational experiences.

Diet: AI applications record, store, and analyze the dietary preferences of passengers to offer them appropriate meal choices. They also include information on food allergies to exclude potentially harmful products.

Comfort: smart cabin management systems optimize lighting to mimic natural daylight, adjust temperature and humidity levels for optimal comfort, or even alter the cabin’s ambient noise, making the customer experience better.

Information: AI-based chatbots share information on flight delays and send alerts on turbulence, letting the passengers be better prepared or give any other information assistance during the flight.

The benefits of AI-powered customer experience during the flight

The AI-powered tools give benefits to both customers and companies.

The benefits for companies:

Insights: AI apps for customer experience don’t just help customers in numerous ways; they follow their pains and troubles through flights, as well as note down their happy moments. In this way, they collect tons of useful information.

Cost savings: Every interaction with an aviation company wins love or brings disappointment and, therefore, shapes the company’s reputation. That is translated into money. Better services lead to love. Love buys income. The implementation of AI gives invaluable insights into which company services are non-essential or non-effective. It shows points to improve, reduce, or build up so that a company can meet client expectations better.

The benefits for passengers:

Effective assistance: by using AI-powered chatbots, passengers get faster services. For example, a customer can order a drink without waiting or select a favorite movie in several clicks.

Real-time updates: AI-powered technology opens ways to get the necessary information about the flight status, weather conditions, etc., in real time.

Planning and alerts: Thanks to AI-based prediction algorithms, in-flight technology helps predict things like delays, turbulence zones, etc. This way, passengers get informed timely.

More satisfaction: Salesforce reports that 58% of customers are satisfied with the opportunities they get with their Einstein smart assistant.

Smart Cabin and AI: Use Cases

Crystal Cabin Awards, a yearly event that is organized to study and recognize the best practices in making air travel safer and more comfortable, selected 21 companies that made the on-flight user experience better last year. From year to year, more and more award winners are using AI to enhance cabin usage by passengers.

Last year’s finalist, Collins Aerospace, presented a platform, IntelliSense, that makes in-flight services smarter. The system uses sensors, cameras, and deep learning AI to collect information about the seat environment. It scans items like glasses and plates, as well as customers’ personal items like phones, to proactively offer a drink or food refills or convert seats to beds.

Astronics has developed Smart Aircraft System technology, which scans luggage bins for free space thanks to a network of smart sensors. Smart luggage bins are aimed to speed up the onboarding process and reduce customer stress by directing passengers to the right bins. Also, the system reports the conditions inside the bin, like pressure, temperature, or humidity, and alerts if an emergency happens. For example, it can prevent spontaneous firing of lithium-ion batteries.

Diehl Aerospace has launched i+sCabin2.0, which aims to research many of the AI possibilities in building a smart cabin. Among other things, the system will be able to scan the cabin for damages and automatically report any issues found to the manufacturers.

Alan Pardoe, director of product marketing at Airbus, shares the company uses smart computing to model areas of high airflow that may potentially increase noise levels. This gives engineers prompts on how to reshape the aircraft build to reduce the noise level.

The Athens International Airport is using an AI model built by PathosAI, a Canadian tech company, that analyzes customer conversations with the recently launched Athens Canadian Airport Chatbot to identify passenger emotional reactions to the company’s products and services in the airport and during flights. Thus, AI helps the company harvest insights that will help make services better.

Summing things up

So, by now, we have smart glass refill, climate control, video suggesting, VR plays, and leftover things scanning. What’s next? We see that the applications of AI models to build smart aircraft cabins are wide, and patents are unlocking new use possibilities every day. If you have a vision of a new solution, it may be the best time to discuss your idea with specialists for implementation.

Interested to learn how AI solutions can propel your business? Contact eNest for a free consultation and advice!

Our team offers an in-depth analysis of your challenge and outlines the best solution variants with an approximate cost and timeline forecast. Book your meeting now!

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Speak to Data Scientist
Jagdeep Chawla

MS in Data Science
NorthWestern Univeristy, Illinois

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