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American Airlines is testing Google Assistant’s interpreter mode for customer service

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It’s already testing the mode at LAX

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Last year, at CES 2019, Google introduced interpreter mode for Google Assistant, which lets you say something in one language and have it translated in another. At CES 2020, American Airlines announced what could be a very practical application of the feature: the airline is testing interpreter mode in airport lounges to help American Airlines employees better communicate with travelers who speak a different language.

American Airlines says that its Premium Customer Service representatives will be able to use interpreter mode on Google Nest Hubs. However, the airline will only use interpreter mode when a multilingual employee isn’t available, which is probably a good thing. There’s always the chance interpreter mode won’t perfectly translate each side of the conversation back and forth, like we saw in a stilted demo from CES 2019.

In addition, interpreter mode only works with 29 languages right now. A conversation between two fluent humans will probably still be the most efficient way to have a conversation. But interpreter mode could work in a pinch.

American Airlines says it rolled out interpreter mode last week in its three Admirals Club lounges at LAX. It’s not clear if or when the technology will be available at other American Airlines lounges.

If you want to test interpreter mode yourself, the feature rolled out to Google Home devices in February 2019, and began rolling out to the iOS and Android Google Assistant smartphone apps in December.