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Air NZ’s AI chatbot turns one

While most one-year-olds may only utter a couple of words, Air New Zealand’s chatbot Bravo Oscar Tango (Oscar for short) is having a staggering 1,000 conversations on average each day as he marks his first birthday.

Oscar first introduced a year ago on the airline’s website to answer commonly asked flight, baggage, lounge and Airpoints queries. 

As with other Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, his performance has steadily improved with every customer interaction and today he has conversations on more than 380 different topics and is able to successfully answer close to 75% of questions, up from seven percent on day one.

In addition to the more obvious travel questions, Oscar has been asked everything from the meaning of life to whether a customer can bring their cactus onboard, and he’s even fielded several marriage proposals.  

He also sings songs and tells jokes on demand.

Air New Zealand Chief Digital Officer Avi Golan says it’s been great to see customers increasingly turning to Oscar for information, and playing a role in training him up.

Golan states, “Artificial intelligence has not only given our customers another quick and convenient way for them to interact with us and get travel information, but Oscar has also freed up our customer service agents to focus on handling more complex queries. 

“Releasing new tech like Oscar so early in the development process was a first for us and allowed our customers to help teach him about the topics most important to them.”

The airline has also introduced Oscar to customers in Australia as well as to users of its mobile app and has integrated the technology that powers him with in-home digital assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa.  

There are further plans for Oscar, including integration with other chat platforms and adding more self-service functionality so he can help customers manage even more aspects of their bookings.

Golan concludes, “We’ve spent considerable time developing Oscar in-house rather than purchase an off-the-shelf bot which often tends to specialise in a smaller number of topics and can be challenging to customise.  

“As a result, we now have a bot with his own unique tone and personality who covers a wide range of subject matter, which has been a much better outcome for our customers."