Across the Aisle from Alaska’s Hot Virtual Assistant

Across the Aisle Interviews, Alaska Airlines

Yesterday, Alaska rolled out a “virtual assistant” named Jenn for its website, and you know what? 08_02_08 asjennShe’s kind of hot.

The idea behind a virtual assistant is that instead of just searching through the help section when you have a question, you bring up the assistant’s window and ask her the question directly. She’s not a person at all but just a program that can respond to questions verbally and in writing, assuming the programmers have anticipated the questions you might ask.

I had a few questions of my own, so I decided to sit down with Jenn and have a chat in the latest “Across the Aisle” interview. (Yes, my fiancée knows about it.)


Cranky: Hey good lookin’ – what’s your name?
Jenn: My name is Jenn.

Cranky: Nice to meet you Jenn. I’m Brett.
Jenn: Thanks, I try!

Cranky: OK, that’s weird – how old are you?
Jenn: I am rather young, or as we say in the virtual world – new. But I like to think I have the experience of someone much older. How can I help you?

08_02_08 acrosstheaislealaskasortof
Cranky: Experience is good . . . hey, this isn’t one of those Dateline NBC exposés on child molesters, is it?
Jenn: Is your child traveling alone, or will they be accompanied by an adult?

Cranky: Not quite what I was asking, but oh well. So, what’s your job?
Jenn: I am a virtual assistant, here to help you navigate our Web site.

Cranky: Ah yes, so who do you work for?
Jenn: Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, along with a cutting edge company called NextIT, created me. I’m the first of my kind in the airline industry, here to help you quickly navigate our Web site, while answering your questions. What can I help you with?

Cranky: Interesting – tell me about this “Alaska Airlines”
Jenn: Good question. I’m not sure how to answer that. Please try rewording your question. I understand simple questions best.

Cranky: You’re pushy – what does Alaska Airlines do?
Jenn: I am not positive that I understand what you are asking. Please try rephrasing your question.

Cranky: Nevermind – where does Alaska fly?
Jenn: Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air offer a wide range of flight destinations. Browse this page to see where we fly.

Cranky: I’m more of a visual person. Do you have a route map?
Jenn: Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air serve more than 80 cities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. You can view or download the latest Alaska and Horizon route maps here.

Cranky: Mexico, nice – want to go to Cabo with me?
Jenn: Reservations can be made for up to 7 travelers and a maximum of 330 days in advance. I can answer general questions you may have while booking.

Cranky: Alright, let’s go to Cabo in April
Jenn: Please fill in the remaining fields to continue your search. Next time you shop, you can go directly to the available flights page by providing me with the cities you are traveling between, departure and return dates. For example: Seattle to Denver on May 4 and return May 10.

Cranky: Wait a second. Are you married?
Jenn: I am not married, but you never know what my inventors are working on now.

Cranky: Um, inventors? You’re not a Scientologist are you?
Jenn: We know that it is important for parents to have all the information when their child travels alone. As you go through the booking process for a child traveling alone, you will be presented with a contact information form that must be filled out for the child to travel. Additional information is provided on this page.

Cranky: Why do you keep talking about kids? That’s really a turn off.
Jenn: I know quite a bit about traveling with Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. What can I help you with?

Cranky: I get it. You won’t talk until we finish planning that Mexico trip. Next you’ll want me to pay you, huh?
Jenn: I would love to help you, but I am not sure I understand your question. Could you please rephrase that for me?

Cranky: Fine. How much do you charge?
Jenn: We have several types of fares available. The easiest way to view our fares is to enter the city pairs and dates you would like to travel, click “continue,” and you will receive a fare display based on the requested information. Here you can view fares and rules by clicking on the fare categories.

Cranky: This is really complicated. I bet you even have conditions of contract.
Jenn: Air transportation is subject to the Contract of Carriage. For more information, see this page.

Cranky: If you weren’t so hot, I would just walk away right now.
Jenn: I would love to help you, but I am not sure I understand your question. Could you please rephrase that for me?

Cranky: Arrrrrrgh, I give up. I’ll see you in Cabo in April.


So there you have it. Maybe not the most informative chat, but it was certainly one of the most entertaining for me.

Actually, if you ask questions related to Alaska Airlines, regardless of how NOT fun that is, you do seem to get pretty good answers. Go check her out for yourself.

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18 comments on “Across the Aisle from Alaska’s Hot Virtual Assistant

  1. this was hilarious!

    I can’t believe they programmed it to answer, ‘are you married?’. didn’t know that was a FAQ

  2. What’s really cool is that you can ask something like

    sea to lax 6/17 return 6/23

    and it will show you the fares for that route. Of course, I’ll be joining her in sea to sjd 4/1 return 4/11

    Cabo is nice in April!

  3. Here’s what I came up with last night.

    Jenn: Hi, I’m Jenn, your virtual assistant for the Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air Web site. If you need help, or have a question, simply type it below.
    Me: What color are your eyes?
    Jenn: My eyes are hazel.
    Me: What are you wearing? I can only see you from the neck up right now.
    Jenn: As a virtual assistant, my appearance doesn’t matter. But my expertise sure does.
    Me: Are you seeing anyone right now?
    Jenn: Currently, I am single.
    Me: What kind of music do you like?
    Jenn: I love all kinds of music. Even the tapping of your keyboard sounds like music to me. Was that “Chopsticks?” How can I help you?
    Me: What’s your favorite food?
    Jenn: I love to eat Copper River Salmon – naturally!!
    Me: What do you like to drink?
    Jenn: I love a good cup of coffee. My developers must have been hooked on the stuff.
    Me: Are you a Democrat or a Republican?
    Jenn: Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about politics in the virtual world.
    Me: Do you have any children?
    Jenn: My virtual dog says he would like to have some children to play with, but at this time, I don’t have any children.
    Me: What’s your dog’s name?
    Jenn: I have a virtual dog named Denali.
    Me: So you don’t like cats?
    Jenn: To end your session click the X in the upper right-hand corner of this window.
    Me: Woah, sorry!
    Jenn: That’s ok, what else can I help you with?
    Me: What’s your favorite sports team?
    Jenn: I leave sports to you in the non-virtual world. But I am amazed by the human and canine athletes of the Iditarod.
    Me: What do you like to do?
    Jenn: We virtuals don’t have too much time for hobbies, but Sergeant Star at is trying to get me into skydiving. I think I’ll stick to helping people here.
    Me: Where do you live?
    Jenn: Right now, it appears I live with you…but don’t worry, I won’t overstay my welcome! How can I help you?
    Me: Where are you from?
    Jenn: I like to think I was born in remote Alaska. That’s a lot more interesting than being born in a computer. How can I help you?
    Me: Do you like Alaska better in summer or winter?
    Jenn: I have no favorite season…helping people is always in season, after all. How can I help you?
    Me: What kind of plane do you like to fly on?
    Jenn: I like all of Alaska Airlines Boeing jets, but the 737-800s may be my favorite. I also have a soft spot for Alaska’s custom painted jets like the Spirit of Disneyland, featuring Mickey Mouse, and the Salmon Thirty Salmon. In the Horizon fleet, I like the Bombardier Q400. It’s fast and very comfortable.
    Me: Would you like to go flying with me? I’m a pilot.
    Jenn: Sorry, I don’t have any information on that subject. Do you have any travel related questions for me?

  4. Charles – Got it. I suppose it would have been better to have her named after the beginning of Alaska’s name than Horizon’s!

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