Air New Zealand has made its first foray into the field of artificial intelligence (AI) unveiling its new chatbot, Bravo Oscar Tango – Oscar for short.
Oscar will initially assist customers with commonly asked queries, saving them time and offering a more personalised experience than searching a traditional Frequently Asked Questions section online. As with other AI technology, Oscar will learn based on the conversations people have with him, becoming more user friendly and more helpful the more he interacts.
Air New Zealand Chief Digital Officer Avi Golan says Oscar has been launched as a beta product allowing customers to play an active role in training him.
“This is a new approach for us, getting Oscar out fast and in the early-development stages so that we can build and co-create with our customers. Given Oscar learns natural language it makes sense he learns directly from our customers the types of information they want to know and the language they use, rather than airline jargon.
“The world’s best digital companies foster a culture of customer-led design and collaboration and for the airline to meet its big digital ambitions we must embed this culture of thinking, acting and doing as leading digital companies do.”
Oscar has initially been launched as a help chatbot to assist with Air New Zealand Lounge, Airpoints™ and baggage queries but the airline has big plans for him, including integration with the Air New Zealand Mobile app, via both voice and text, and with other chat platforms and in-home digital assistants.
“Over time we want Oscar to become a virtual travel assistant helping customers across every stage of the journey, with the ability to recognise who you are, inform you about your flights, make or change a booking, select seats, check you in, and offer to help sort you a taxi to the airport,” says Mr Golan.
“There’s no doubt that AI is the future, allowing customers to better self-serve within their channel of choice, further improving the customer experience.”
Customers with queries about Airpoints, baggage or Air New Zealand lounges are encouraged to put Oscar to the test. He can be found in the Help & Contact section of the airline’s New Zealand website.
| An Air New Zealabnd release | February 2, 2017 ||
Outside of Moldova’s capital of Chisinau lies Cricova, the second-largest wine cellar in the world. The stuff of legends, Cricova is more of an underground city than a cellar, occupying over 820,000 feet of space while extending over 75 miles. Situated 262 feet underground at it’s deepest point, the sprawling former limestone mine is a labyrinth that houses over 1.25 million bottles of wine, including its own brand of sparkling wine.
Putin stores his private collection in these chalky corridors and chose the site for his 50th birthday celebration. But Putin is not the only world leader with a penchant for this wine cellar.
Every statesman who visits the winery is accorded the honor of a personal collection, but Mr. Putin’s stash is noticeably bigger. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a frequent visitor—having hosted a few private galas here herself. With political heads of states boozing it up in the Moldovan crypt, it is no wonder that Cricova has become one of Moldova’s leading tourist attractions. But Cricova was not always a wine cellar.
Emirates, which offers five double-decker A380 services a day out of New Zealand, is welcoming in the new year with special fares to a selection of points around its global network, including Australia, the UK, Europe and Africa.
The Hello 2017 Economy and Business Class fares are also on offer to destinations in Asia and the Middle East, as well as India and the Americas via Dubai
The five daily New Zealand flights – a non-stop service to Dubai from Auckland and three others via Australia, plus a Christchurch service via Sydney – offer the chance to travel all the way by A380 from New Zealand to 17 destinations in Europe among other cities.
From today until January 23 the Hello 2017 fares will include Economy Class return to Australia from $439, Asia $899, Indian sub-continent $1,299, Europe $1,499, United Kingdom and Africa $1,599, the Americas $1,799 and the Middle East $1,899.
Special Business Class fares are also available.
The fares are inclusive of all taxes and are valid for select travel dates. They are subject to availability on specific flights and various conditions apply.
“Emirates likes to welcome in each new year with a special treat for travellers and this year’s offering is no exception,” said Emirates’ New Zealand regional manager, Chris Lethbridge. “In all, we have special fares to more than 80 destinations, including the most popular places on our network.”
In total, Emirates offers connections at its Dubai hub to 38 places in Europe, 22 in Africa and 17 in the Middle East.
Passengers travelling on the three-class, 491-seat A380 aircraft will enjoy spacious cabins and experience a peaceful journey in the world’s quietest long-range jet. They can use the onboard Wi-Fi; indulge in food prepared by international chefs, and be entertained by Emirates’ award-winning ice system which offers over 2,500 channels of inflight entertainment across all cabins.
Emirates has redefined the core experience of premium travel. First Class and Business Class passengers will have access to the A380’s onboard Lounge, with space to mingle whilst enjoying canapés and the beverages prepared by the onboard bartender. First Class passengers can enjoy the aircraft’s First Class Private Suites and experience the aircraft’s signature onboard Shower Spa.
Emirates is the largest operator of the Airbus A380 with 89 in its fleet, and has carried over 65 million passengers on its flagship aircraft since 2008
Bookings can be made through www.emirates.com/nz or phone 0508 364 728.
Auckland Airport has rolled out its first mobile self-service check-in kiosks, in preparation for expected record passenger numbers through the international terminal this summer.
Judy Nicholl, Auckland Airport’s general manager – aeronautical operations, says the kiosks, which can be readied for use by any participating airline at the touch of a button, will enable more dynamic use of the check-in area and are being introduced to improve queuing times for passengers.
“The kiosks are both mobile and fully-customisable, meaning we can put them out anywhere, and at any time, to meet customer demand,” says Ms Nicholl.
“Upstairs in the international terminal we are currently expanding and upgrading our departure lounge and security processing to accommodate increasing passenger numbers. However, this mobile technology will help us to continue to manage the check-in process for passengers within our existing footprint.”
Auckland Airport has invested in 45 of the kiosks, which enable passengers to check in themselves, print boarding passes and bag tags and then just drop their bags off at the counter. The kiosks have a 12 hour rechargeable battery life, and can therefore support extended peak periods.
Cathay Pacific and American Airlines have already started to use the new kiosks, with more airlines set to follow suit over the summer period.
Cathay Pacific’s Airport Services Manager, Nathan Rogerson, says the airline is already seeing the benefit of adopting the new technology into its check-in service.
“At Cathay Pacific our goal is to enable “Life Well Travelled”. Introducing mobile check-in kiosks for our double-daily flights to Hong Kong has taken the stress away from the check-in experience for our passengers, reduced our queues significantly and is allowing us to focus on our customers first. Passengers can now spend more time with their family and friends and enjoy a relaxed journey through the airport before their departure.”
The kiosks are not the only new additions to Auckland Airport’s international terminal check-in hall. A further 13 service counters have been accommodated and all flight information and above-counter screens have been replaced with larger, high-definition screens for greater visibility from distance. The back-of-house international baggage handling system has also been upgraded to prepare for the increased volumes associated with the peak summer season.
These improvements have been delivered as part of an infrastructure upgrade programme of unprecedented scale at the airport. Auckland Airport is currently spending more than a million dollars every day on infrastructure improvements, including a significant expansion and upgrade of its international terminal, and expects at least this level of investment to be maintained over the next five years.
Auckland Airport has welcomed its 29th international airline this morning, with the arrival of the inaugural Tianjin Airlines flight from Chinese cities Tianjin and Chongqing.
Scott Tasker, Auckland Airport’s acting general manager – aeronautical commercial, says, “We’re delighted to welcome Tianjin Airlines to Auckland Airport and New Zealand, and excited that they’ve chosen Auckland for their first Australasian service.”
“Regional China is a rapidly developing market for New Zealand tourism and the new flights we’re welcoming today will provide more choice for Chinese visitors to experience New Zealand, and for New Zealanders travelling to China.”
Tianjin Airlines will operate year-round between Tianjin, Chongqing and Auckland with three flights a week using an A330 aircraft. The new service will add 83,000 seats to the China-Auckland route every year and Auckland Airport estimates that this will deliver a $102 million boost to the New Zealand tourism industry.
Tianjin and Chongqing are Auckland Airport’s 47th and 48th international destinations respectively. Tianjin is the largest coastal city in northern China, with a population of more than 15 million people. Chongqing is a major economic centre in the Yangtze basin and has population of more than 30 million people.
Mr Tasker says that Auckland Airport is undertaking the most significant upgrades seen for several decades. The airport is currently spending more than $1 million dollars every day on infrastructure improvements and expects at least this level of investment to be maintained over the next five years.
“Tianjin Airlines is arriving in Auckland at an exciting time. A major upgrade of our international departure area is well underway, as is the expansion of Pier B of the international terminal, which will add two more gates that can each accommodate an A380 or two smaller aircraft. We are also progressing the concept design of the new domestic section of our combined domestic and international terminal.”
Air New Zealand will split its Tokyo services between Haneda and Narita Airports from July next year, offering customers two points of entry into Japan’s capital city.
Air New Zealand currently operates daily flights to Narita International Airport increasing to 10 times a week over the peak months. From July 2017 the three additional peak services will operate to Haneda Airport, with daily services continuing to Narita.
The Haneda services will depart Auckland on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays utilising the airline’s state of the art Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. Air New Zealand also operates a seasonal service between Auckland and the Japanese city of Osaka.
Air New Zealand Chief Revenue Officer Cam Wallace says the direct Auckland-Haneda Tokyo route will offer more choice for customers travelling to and from Japan.
“The new service will be convenient for Kiwis wanting to get to downtown Tokyo and for Japanese tourists looking to visit New Zealand. The mid-afternoon departure from Auckland will enable good connections from regional New Zealand and a similar mid-afternoon arrival time for the inbound flight means tourists will be able to make seamless domestic connections to the rest of New Zealand.
“We look forward to building on our existing services to Japan as tourism continues to grow in both directions, particularly in the coming years with events such as the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympics.”
Japan is New Zealand’s fifth largest tourism market with visitor numbers to New Zealand from Japan up 13.8 percent to 97,312 for the year ending October 2016. The number of New Zealanders travelling to Japan also grew in that period – up 15 percent to 32,920 for the year to the end of October.
Tickets are on sale today through travel agents and will also be available for online booking from the end of January 2017.
| A Air New Zealand press release | Dec 21, 2016 |
New Zealand travellers will be able to fly all the way by A380 from Auckland and Christchurch to Morocco from late March next year when Emirates upgrades capacity on the service.
Emirates, voted the World’s Best Airline in the 2016 Skytrax World Airline Awards, announced today that it will operate the first ever commercial Airbus A380 flight to Morocco and North Africa, when it takes the iconic double decker aircraft to Casablanca daily from 26 March 2017.
The airline’s flagship aircraft, which continues to excite travellers and aviation enthusiasts alike, will replace the daily Boeing 777-300ER aircraft currently used on the Dubai-Casablanca route, offering increased seat capacity across all three cabin classes and an enhanced premium product experience.
All five daily Emirates A380 services from New Zealand will provide a direct connection at Dubai with the Casablanca flight.
The switch to the A380 offers a total of 1834 additional seats per week, meeting a growing demand from travellers.
Casablanca has become one Emirates’ most popular destinations, and has seen steady growth since the service launched in March 2002. Passengers travelling on the three-class, 491-seat aircraft, will enjoy spacious cabins and experience a peaceful journey in the world’s quietest long-range jet. They can use the onboard Wi-Fi; indulge in food prepared by international chefs, and be entertained by Emirates’ award-winning ice system which offers over 2,500 channels of inflight entertainment across all cabins.
Emirates is the largest operator of the Airbus A380, and has carried over 65 million passengers on its flagship aircraft since 2008.
So far, Emirates has introduced A380 services to over 45 destinations across its network. Its current fleet of 88 A380s has visited over 64 airports, flew nearly 986 million kilometres, and made 74,263 return flights to date.
Last month, customs officials at the Gongbei Port of Entry began using Sanbot, a humanoid robot designed and built by QIHAN Technology Company, to help increase efficiency, security and customer experience at the busy border crossing.
According to QIHAN, Sanbot is a service robot powered by a cloud-enabled app ecosystem designed to be deployed in a wide variety of settings including retail locations, schools, hospitals and more.
“The use of Sanbot by Gongbei Customs demonstrates just how versatile Sanbot’s AI platform truly is,” said Zhuang Yongjun, chief technology officer at QIHAN. “We truly believe that robots like Sanbot have the potential to change how service industries operate–and that includes helping customs workers operate and secure ports around the globe. By equipping Sanbot with an incredibly powerful, cloud-based development platform, QIHAN has been able to allow our partners at Gongbei Customs to tailor Sanbot’s capabilities and behaviors to the needs of their specific use case.”
Air New Zealand has today welcomed customers to the airline’s first lounge dedicated to regional travelers out of Wellington.
Located on the first floor of the airport’s main terminal building ahead of the new centralised security screening point, the lounge offers seating for more than 100 customers.
Air New Zealand Chief Marketing and Customer Officer Mike Tod says the new space is open to all lounge eligible customers but was designed specifically for those travelling to regional ports.
“The lounge’s proximity to regional gates will give customers travelling on regional services more time to relax or get some work done in the lead up to their flight.
“There are a range of spaces and facilities to suit all types of travellers including business stations with power and USB connections, dining tables for groups of various sizes and quiet nooks to read or relax in,” says Mr Tod.
The lounge also features self-service food buffet and drinks stations as well as barista made coffee which customers can order direct from their smartphone or tablet through the airline’s popular mobile app.
With large windows with sweeping views over the airport’s public atrium and beyond to the tarmac, the lounge is designed in the sleek, modern style of the airline’s other recently opened lounges in Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Nadi, Invercargill, Hamilton and Queenstown.
Air New Zealand is part way through a four year, $100 million programme to redevelop lounges at ports right across its network.