Published on November 9, 2023, 5:42 am

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on organizations and industries worldwide, forcing many to find ways to reduce costs in order to offset the loss of revenue. This is especially true for the travel industry, which has been hit hard by operational deficits caused by staff shortages, leading to diminished processes, increased costs, and negative customer experiences.

Cathay Pacific, one of the major airlines affected by the pandemic, reported a loss of approximately HK$5 billion during the first half of 2022. The airline’s chairman, Patrick Healey, acknowledged the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19 to the global aviation industry and how travel and operational restrictions have severely impacted their business. Despite these challenges, Cathay Pacific did experience some improvement in the latter half of 2021 as traditionally stronger consumer demand returned.

However, there is some positive news for the industry as well. According to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), international air traffic rose by 11.5% in August 2022 compared to the same period last year, with airlines in Asia exhibiting strong year-over-year growth rates.

As a result of this growth, Cathay Pacific is anticipating an increase in call and chat traffic volume. Post-COVID travel inquiries have been steadily increasing over the past few months. The airline has also noticed a shift in customer behavior as more people opt for digital channels like WhatsApp and WeChat for instant responses rather than traditional hotlines.

To keep up with this changing landscape and enhance customer experiences, Cathay Pacific has turned to technology investments such as chatbots. Chatbots have become popular additions for many organizations looking to supplement their customer engagement channels. These AI-powered assistants are designed to automate frequently performed tasks, freeing up human employees to focus on more critical operations.

Statistics show that up to 80% of internet consumers have interacted with a chatbot at least once. Furthermore, reports indicate that chatbots are capable of handling full conversations with customers almost 70% of the time.

Cathay Pacific has already incorporated chatbots into its customer care chats, with AI chatbots now handling over 50% of these interactions. The company continuously works to improve the accuracy of these chatbots by mining valuable insights from customer conversations.

However, training these chatbots can be a complex and time-consuming process, especially when dealing with human queries in customer service. To address this challenge, Cathay Pacific has partnered with Fano Labs to launch a Conversational AI Training Excellence platform that leverages AI technologies to train AI chatbots.

Through this platform, named “Trainer AI,” Cathay Pacific is able to analyze various interactions with customers, including voice calls, live chats, WeChat messages, and WhatsApp messages. The data is automatically categorized for processing before being presented to a human supervisor for review. The trainer AI then uses this approved data to teach the AI chatbot. This innovative approach not only reduces the time required for training by 50%, but it also allows for more extensive training data and improves the accuracy of the chatbot responses.

Currently available in English and different Chinese languages, Cathay Pacific plans to add support for additional languages based on the volume of customer interactions.

In addition to enhancing customer experiences through chatbots, Cathay Pacific is also exploring other applications of artificial intelligence across different areas of its business. One such application involves using AI algorithms to inform which destinations are displayed on the airline’s home page, providing customers with tailored offers based on their preferences. Additionally, Cathay Pacific aims to leverage its vast operational data to predict potential delays in order to proactively provide mitigation measures for their front-line teams.

Overall, Cathay Pacific’s adoption of conversational AI technology showcases its commitment to improving customer experiences in the digital realm. By harnessing the power of AI and investing in cutting-edge solutions like Trainer AI, the airline aims to provide more efficient and personalized services to its customers while reducing costs and optimizing operations.

Accenture notes that the pandemic has put pressure on organizations and industries to reduce overall costs to outweigh missing revenues. Within in the travel industry, operational deficits caused by staff shortages have negatively impacted processes, costs, and customer experiences.

In reporting a loss of nearly HK$5 billion during the first half of 2022, Patrick Healey, Cathay Pacific chairman, said: “The unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19 to the global aviation industry and the subsequent travel and operational restrictions around the world have continued to affect our business severely. Notwithstanding these challenges, the situation did improve as 2021 progressed. The second half of the year is traditionally stronger than the first half, and this was the case for us in 2021.”

August 2022 data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reveal that international traffic rose 11.5% compared to August 2021 with airlines in Asia delivering the strongest year-over-year growth rates.

With this growth, Cathay is anticipating an increase in volume of call and chat


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