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United Airlines will start using Next IT’s virtual customer agent next year

Spokane based tech company Next IT announced Thursday United Airlines will start using its virtual customer agent online next year.

The company has developed similar products for Alaska Airlines and for Continental Airlines.

Alaska's personalized question-answer agent lets fliers and passengers query "Jenn" which then provides short answers on schedules, ticket prices and fares. Continental's agent is branded "Alex."

Next IT spokeswoman Jennifer Snell said United will deploy the agent in 2012 and has not revealed its brand name.

At this point, none of the airlines is offering a mobile-specific app that incorporates the Next IT agent, she said. Airlines do have apps that provide quick responses on flight information and other related matters.

One of the first agents Next IT developed was the "Sgt. Star" tool that has been used on the recruiting site.

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.