Sabre expands its bot technology with new pilot chatbot for corporate travellers 

Travel technology provider Sabre is casting its net wider in chatbot technology, partnering with Travel Services International USA (TSI) to test an AI-powered chatbot for corporate travellers.

The bot, dubbed Ella, will be available to corporate customers via Facebook Messenger to help with common service and support requests related to fixing existing flight reservations, said Sabre. Some of the requests included in the testing are changes to existing flight reservations, special meal requests and selecting and paying for a seat. If Ella is unable to fulfill the quest, the bot will divert to a live travel agent.

Throughout the test, Sabre and TSI will evaluate traveller preferences for how often and when they engage with Ella. “The companies expect to gain a better understanding of the best way to engage travelers with chatbots and solve for some of the most common friction points associated with chatbots, such as how travelers will initially find the bot,” the companies explained.

Sabre’s latest pilot programme builds on a chatbot prototype in development by Sabre Hospitality Solutions that would allow customers to shop, book and engage with hotels through common messaging programmes including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter and SMS text messaging, as well as voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Home.

Chatbot technology is also gaining traction among global airlines. Air New Zealand recently marked the first year of operations for its “Bravo Oscar Tango” chatbot, with the bot now averaging 1,000 conversations per day.

Air New Zealand stated the bot is able to hold conversations with customers on more than 380 different topics, and answers close to 75% of questions it fields, up from 7% when Bravo Oscar Tango made its debut.

Mexico’s largest airline Aeromexico was an early adopter of chatbot functionality, launching Aerobot through Facebook Messenger in late 2016. At the time it launched Aerobot, Aeromexico stated 73% of Facebook users in Mexico visit the Facebook pages of their favorite businesses.

Aeromexico’s rival Volaris also has its own chatbot via Facebook Messenger. With “Vale” customers search flights, and can reserve and pay for travel through the bot platform.