Happy Birthday Jenn! Alaska Airlines’ Virtual Employee: Quite Accomplished at Five

Alaska Airlines, the customer-service leader and bold innovator that once geared up for operations in the cold northern climate by running a fleet of ski planes and that entertained travelers with the world’s first regularly scheduled in-flight movies took a big leap in 2008, introducing the industry’s first virtual-assistant service, Ask Jenn.

In the five years since Ask Jenn was launched, the word has gotten out about virtual agents, and other companies are playing catch-up. That’s going to be a big job, because Jenn’s been busy.

-February 7, 2008 – Jenn is born, ready to answer nearly any airline question and complete with a personality that some describe as “pleasantly snarky”

-February 8, 2008 – With an input simply stating, “You are hot,” Jenn receives her first in what would prove to be a long line of compliments and marriage proposals

-March, 2008 – The New York Times, a little rag with a knack for sensing profound newsworthiness, gives Jenn a rave review

-July, 2008 – As Jenn helps travelers with booking flights and keeping tabs on acceptable carry-ons, her popularity continues to soar

-April 2009 – Jenn gets top billing in an Alaska Airlines Magazine article, which also announced the upcoming availability of in-flight broadband and check-in via smartphone, or PDA, as they were sometimes called back then

-October 2010 – A daring user asked Jenn, “Who made you?” – her most existentially profound question to date, to which she replied, “We worked along with a cutting edge company, Next IT, to create me. I’m the first of my kind in the U.S. airline industry.”

-December 2012 – Jenn has by this point engaged in 11,509,953 total chat sessions, resulting in 25,116,598 total questions

-February 2013 – Working 24/7 for five years, Jenn has now managed to rack up 43,800 hours. That’s the equivalent of 22 years for a full-time employee with three well-deserved weeks of vacation per year

Nice work! With such a dependable and knowledgeable ally, the future is looking bright for the Alaska Airlines travelers. And for Jenn? A recent conversation has people whispering:

You Asked: What do you do for fun?

Jenn: We virtuals don’t have too much time for hobbies, but Sergeant Star at goarmy.com is trying to get me into skydiving. I think I’ll stick to helping people here.