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Chapter Ten. Case Studies > United Airlines: Shortcuts for Frequent Fliers

United Airlines: Shortcuts for Frequent Fliers

Flight information systems were one of the earliest types of commercial speech-recognition applications. The United Airlines system has been in operation since 1999 and receives an average of two million calls per month. Between 1999 and 2002 this system saved United Airlines in excess of $25 million over the touchtone system that previously was in place.[1] While business travelers are an airline's most profitable customers, they are not their sole customers, so it only makes sense that the United Airlines system provides expedited flight information for those callers who know their flight numbers as well as those who don't. Here's how a typical call goes.

[1] Bob Bongiorno, Managing Director of Customer Service, Planning and Finance Applications, United Airlines, at SpeechWorks International Global Speech Day “Web Seminar,” May 22, 2002.

SYSTEM:Welcome to United Airlines' flight information system. I'll be able to help you get information on all United, United Express, and United Shuttle flights. Enter or say the flight number, or say “I don't know it” if you're unsure.
CALLER:Flight 455.
SYSTEM:Would you like arrival or departure information?
SYSTEM: OK, I'll look up that information. Hold on. <Database look-up.> Flight 455 is scheduled to depart on time at 8:45 A.M. from Boston Logan, Terminal C, Gate 14. You can say “Repeat that” to hear it again, or “Good-bye” if you're done.



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