London Gatwick is the latest to launch a Facebook Messenger chatbot and it plans to expand its offer onto other social platforms

When you hear of gales at London’s Gatwick airport there is no need to worry about heavy winds or problematic weather impacting your flight, for Gail is actually the airport’s latest tool to enhance the passenger experience. Gail is Gatwick’s chatbot on the Facebook Messenger platform, as London’s second largest airport becomes the latest in the travel sector to employ the technology.

Gatwick Airport has launched Gail to provide passengers with easy access to flight information, flight specific notifications, and information on airport shops, restaurants and other facilities. She is currently fluent in responding to passenger queries in English but other languages will be introduced next year, when the airport may also expand the off to other chat platforms including WhatsApp and Apple Business Messenger.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled chatbot provides easy access to information before and during a trip. For instance, passengers can simply type their destination, select their flight from a list and then receive real-time updates on the status of that flight.

Ahead of the launch Gatwick has collaborated within the VINCI Airports network and in particular worked with Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport in France, which launched its own chatbot in Oct-2017. This collaboration helped benchmark what the chatbot could be used for, questions passengers might ask and the value of features such as ‘quick response’.

The airport says that Gail understands and answers about 80% of the questions it receives and within a year the chatbots of both Lyon-Saint Exupéry and Gatwick are expected to reach a new level of understanding, reaching around 95% via machine learning and actively learning from interactions with users.

Gail actually attempts to takes the experience further by integrating restaurants so that passengers looking for somewhere to eat before their flight can use the chatbot to help them find a suitable restaurant. For example – by asking “Which restaurants have vegetarian options?” users will be presented with a list of options. This feature will likely be incorporated into other chatbots in the VINCI Airports’ network.

Abhi Chacko, head of innovation at Gatwick airport, sees significant potential for chatbots to facilitate, personalise and enrich each passenger’s end-to-end experience across multiple touchpoints. “Our passengers are at the core of everything we do and the aim of this AI-enabled chatbot is to make it easy for them to get airport and flight related information,” he says.

While both the Gatwick and Lyon-Saint Exupéry’s chatbots are available on Facebook Messenger, the Gatwick chatbot will be tested on platforms such as WhatsApp and Apple Business Messenger, while Lyon has focused on web and mobile channels – an approach that will develop further knowledge and best-practice sharing across the VINCI Airports’ network of 46 airports in 12 countries.

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