The future rise of the digital HR assistant

By 2037, the airline industry is forecast to grow to over 60,000 aircraft. This will drive the need for about 1 million additional flight crew.

A great many will be new entrants to the world of work, millennials and Gen Z whose expectations of how they are engaged as a workforce is purely through digital channels. The administrative burden and complexity of just the addition in flight crew will need to be met via technology to protect margins and meet their expectations.

So how? At Caravelo, our clients have seen a huge benefit for Intelligent Agent technology (chat-bots) to drive efficiency on their retail transactions. Why not turn this intelligence to drive efficiencies internally?

We’ve spent time talking to various airline HR leaders within the airline industry about which areas of their processes could do with applying the same level of digitalization as the consumer facing side of the business. We’ve also been asking crew directly (we tend to fly a lot). The following is some of the topics that kept coming up.

Staff travel

Ask new entrants to the airline industry why a career connected to flying was appealing and often the answer is ‘the perks of staff travel!’. Getting to utilise an empty seat to travel the world at little or no cost is a huge value add. Actually making it easy for airline staff to use this perk is often still a challenge.

The very best airline staff travel systems are still proprietary, clunky, opaque and often tied to desktop usage. The worst still requires a staff member to ‘issue’ a ticket. Why shouldn’t a concessionary ticket be as quick to buy as a commercial ticket?

We think there is a better way, one that involves treating internal customers like customers and providing them with a way to manage their biggest perk themselves. We think that the understanding of ‘Will I get on?’ shouldn’t be limited to those who can query a GDS and that an auto generated boarding card in a messenger platform shouldn’t be limited to commercial passengers.


Crew engagement around the most central aspect of a team members work life, their roster, is crucial. Asking a friendly help-desk ‘What’s my plan for next Tuesday?’ is not always as simple as it should be. According to the crew we talk to, being able to conversationalize the approach to requesting trip trades, leave bidding or to checking in/checking out of duty would make a big difference.

Understanding and engagement

‘What is my allowance here?’ ‘What time does the bus come?’ ‘My suitcase is damaged, what do I do?’ Airline crew need to have their questions answered: quickly. Whilst manuals, intranets and colleagues often hold the answers, having the ability to ask a work-related question to a support assistant and getting a 100% right, fully consistent response that is contextual will better empower crew and meet the expectations of a generation used to Siri / Alexa. Leave application management, contextual understanding of eligibility for certain expenses, making claims all put pressure on internal resources.

Getting to a response rate which is good enough to satisfy crew who are used to immediate responses in other areas of their lives requires takes scale. Our experience in developing and managing intelligent, automated agent technology is that audiences can be serviced efficiently with an immediate scale.

How we are responding to the challenge

Until recently we have focused our chatbot ambitions only on enabling airlines to deliver an end-to-end customer travel solution. Our bots operate both as retailers and servicing assistants: in servicing we see 70% of queries being easily dealt with by bots with the more complex 30% being handed over to service agents. Whilst we continue to bring further utility and purpose to our bots, we know that passengers aren’t the only customers.

In our discussions with airline leaders we’ve realized that digital disruption has been almost completely focused on consumer facing technology. The opportunity for airlines to address the complexity within and provide digital engagement for internal customer that simplifies the complex is significant. By digitalizing parts of the role of the HR assistant, using smart platforms powered by AI, airlines can bring the same approach of 70 / 30 to the queries of its team members. That empowers real HR managers and assistants to focus on the complex.

As with consumer facing intelligent agents, the potential for further functionality and iteration of utility is significant: further digitalization and more complex automation. We will be launching our first ‘HR assistant’ bots for airlines in the coming months. If you’d like to know more about how your next HR assistant could be a digital one, be in touch. What’s your take?

Is your company considering it? Join the conversation.