Kite Smart Design

Image: Kristina Velan

APEX Insight: Strategic design consultancy Smart Design pitched an AI-supported travel companion concept, called KITE, for anxious flyers at the Passenger Experience Conference today. According to its developers, KITE, which is likely to manifest as an app, is aimed at helping airlines build trusting relationships with anxious flyers. “Before you’re in the stressful moment of prepping to go to the airport or getting on a flight, we can start learning about you and getting to know you – by finding out when you feel calm and safe, and what triggers your anxiety,” Nathaniel Giraitis, director of Strategy, Smart Design, said.

Strategic design consultancy Smart Design pitched an AI-supported travel companion, called KITE, for anxious flyers at the Passenger Experience Conference (PEC) today.

According to its developers, KITE, which is likely to manifest as an app (either as a standalone or as a plug-in), is aimed at improving upon the courses that help airline crewmembers engage with anxious flyers, which account for an estimated one-third of the American population. This would be achieved by building a longstanding relationship with a passenger, and learning about their habits, stress triggers, preferences and coping techniques over time.

“Most larger airlines and even some of the smaller ones have a flyer training program, but to be honest, many are short-lived. They are quite expensive – costing from $300–$3,000 and they’re general, not tailored,” said Nathaniel Giraitis, director of Strategy, Smart Design.

Smart Design wants to use artificial intelligence to create a flying companion, essentially a chatbot, who is not only with you before, during and after a flight, but can connect you to human support. “Even before you’re in the stressful moment of prepping to go to the airport or getting on a flight, we can start learning about you and getting to know you – by finding out when you feel calm and safe, and what triggers your anxiety. As a result, this informs the system of the key moments that it might need to provide intervention,” Giraitis said.

Smart Design hypothesizes that on connected aircraft, KITE could have even more capabilities, such as knowing where a passenger is in their journey and allowing a passenger to share information about their ETA (estimated time of arrival) with a loved one on the ground – not unlike what is already possible with apps like Uber or Citymapper.

KITE could be connected to an onboard café or duty-free shop, enabling a friend or family member of the nervous flyer to offer a gin and tonic.

Giraitis goes even further to suggest that KITE could be connected to an onboard café or duty-free shop, enabling a friend or family member of the nervous flyer to offer a gin and tonic or a plush animal at the moment they need to be comforted the most.

Smart Design is pretty new on the airline passenger experience scene and admit it’s only been working on this concept for about a month. But it says that mobility and transportation are a strategic area of focus and it hopes to meet potential partners here in Hamburg.

“As consultants, we don’t build products ourselves and distribute them. Rather, we look for partners who are having the same issues or scratching their heads about the same challenges, and then using that as a conversation piece – that starts a conversation about how we can properly explore this space,” said Giraitis.