United Airlines announced Tuesday that it has launched a new chat function – the United Automated Assistant – to give customers a contactless option to receive immediate access to information about cleaning and safety procedures put in place due to COVID-19.
The airline says customers can text “Clean” to FLYUA (35982) and get answers to questions about masks, boarding procedures, touchless check-in options and more, without having to call, search online or wait in a line for an answer.
United says the Automated Assistant is one of many recent innovations that have been developed to modernize the airline’s service and create a more seamless experience for customers.
“The travel experience has changed a lot from just a few months ago – we’ve overhauled our safety and cleaning procedures and this new text functionality makes it easier for our customers to stay informed,” said Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President for Technology and Chief Digital Officer. “Whether you want to know the latest about our social distancing and face covering policies or see how the boarding and deplaning process has changed, our Automated Assistant is designed to meet the customer where they are and get them answers in a simple, fast and easy way.”
The United Automated Assistant answers customers questions like:
- How is United keeping airports cleaner and safer?
- Are United Club locations still open?
- How can I prepare for an upcoming trip?
- What is the quality of the air onboard a plane?
- How are you cleaning and disinfecting your planes?
- Are there any changes to service during flight?
The United Automated Assistant is part of the airline’s United CleanPlus program, an effort to put health and safety at the forefront of the entire customer experience, that includes partnerships with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic, a mandatory mask policy, electrostatic spraying, touchless check-in capabilities and a first-of-its kind, pre-boarding health self-assessment for passengers, said the airline.
This week, United started requiring customers to wear a face covering in the more than 360 airports where they operate around the world, in addition to onboard the aircraft, and is now running the high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems at full strength on all mainline aircraft during the entire boarding and deplaning process, helping to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.
United says other measures they’ve put in place include:
Limiting Number of Passengers on Board
The airline is also taking steps to limit the overall number of people onboard and separate customers wherever possible. United switched to a larger plane 66 times a day in May and June, for a total of more than 4,000 flights during those months, creating more space onboard. As a result, the airline’s consolidated average seat factor – or the percentage of occupied seats including customers and non-revenue passengers – was 38% in May; 57% in June and is expected to be about 45% in July, with less than 15% of flights operating with more than 70% seats filled.
When United flights are less full, the airline’s advanced automated seating tool assigns seats in a way that maximizes the space on board – and the distance between customers. And since May, United has been contacting customers via email and through the United app – as much as 24 hours in advance – if their flight is expected to be more than 70% full and gives them options to switch to different, less full flights for no additional fees. Customers also have the option to cancel their flight and receive a credit for future travel. To date, the overwhelming majority of customers choose to keep their travel plans the same.
In addition to the vital initiatives mentioned above, several of the airline’s precautionary measures to further ensure a cleaner environment include:
- Implementing temperature checks for every employee working at all stations throughout the airline’s system
- Installing sneeze guards at check-in and gate podiums
- Promoting social distancing with floor decals to help customers stand six feet apart
- Becoming the first U.S. carrier to roll out touchless check-in capabilities for customers with bags
At the Gate
- Disinfecting high-touch areas such as door handles, handrails, elevator buttons, telephones and computers
- Providing hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes
- Rolling out Clorox Total 360 Electrostatic Sprayers in select markets to disinfect gate areas at United’s hub airports
- Enabling customers to self-scan boarding passes
- Boarding fewer customers at a time and, after pre-boarding, boarding from the back of the plane to the front
- Introducing real-time seat assignment update text and email notifications to further United’s touchless airport experience
- Using electrostatic spraying to disinfect 95%+ of aircraft
- Disinfecting high-touch areas – such as tray tables and armrests – prior to boarding
- Reducing contact between flight attendants and customers during snack and beverage service
- Deplaning in groups of five rows at a time to reduce crowding
- Providing customers with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, and onboard items including pillows and blankets upon request
(News Release from United Airlines)