Airline opts for voice computer.

Position:South African Airways

Soon, passengers who telephone south African Airways (SAA) to book a flight or find out information wIll find themselves talking to a computer.

A combination of interactive voice technology and parallel database technology is enabling the airline to install a voice-operated enquiry and reservation system.

Parallel processing from White Cross Systems of the UK drives the system.

Available 24 hours a day, Saavers - an acronym for South African Airways Voice Enhanced Response System - will allow up to 36 concurrent telephone callers to make enquiries about fight details, including departure and arrival times and SAA frequent-flier details, and to make flight bookings for either passengers or cargo.

Interactive voice technology

Saavers is being installed by South African systems integrator CMS in a deal worth close to $738,000. Currently being phased in, the system's front end uses interactive voice technology from Syntellect Inc of the US, which is based in Phoenix, Arizona. "This technology is already used by several international airlines," a White Cross Systems representative points out, "but SAA wanted special features."

CMS Deputy Managing Director Dan McMahon explains, "A potential bottleneck was converting enquiries into SQL and then interrogating the relevant database. An ordinary server or processor with SQL would not be able to cope with the volumes. After considering the options, we decided that a powerful parallel processing server was necessary."

The system...

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