Delta is keynoting CES today and launching a slew of updates to its digital services. Its competitors don't want to be left behind, of course, so it's probably no surprise that American Airlines also made a small but nifty tech announcement today. In partnership with Google, American will start trialing Google Nest Hubs and the Google Assistant interpreter mode in its airport lounges, starting at Los Angeles International Airport this week.
The idea here is to make it easier for the company's customer service teams to provide personalized service to its customers when no multilingual representative is available. Because the interpreter mode supports 29 languages, including the likes of Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese, the Assistant should be able to help in most cases.
"The science fiction universal translator is now science fact," said Maya Leibman, American’s chief information officer. "Incorporating technology like the Google Assistant’s interpreter mode will help us break down barriers, provide a worry-free travel experience and make travel more accessible to all."
While this isn't exactly a groundbreaking new airline experience, what we're seeing here is how the airline industry is now starting to see technology as a way to differentiate. There is only so much you can do once a customer has boarded (though a good seat, meal and friendly service sure help). What the airlines want to do, though, is extend their relationship with their customers beyond that initial booking experience and the flying experience, with more proactive services through its mobile apps and other touchpoints. That's pretty clear from Delta's announcements today, and the rest of the industry is pushing in the same direction.