BANGKOK, Thailand, 9 January 2018: Amadeus Asia Pacific will use Thai travel agents as a test ground to introduce a new bot for LINE users that will connect them with their travel agents to book and buy airfares.
Whether it will give travel agents a tool to compete and reverse the trend that sees travellers buying fares direct from online booking or airline sites remains to be seen.
Amadeus tells us the obvious; the use of mobile messaging has been on the rise amongst travellers with six out of the top 10 most used mobile apps being messaging apps.
To tap this trend and pass contacts to travel agents, Amadeus has developed an AI-powered bot in partnership with GoHero.ai (based in India).
The bot connects LINE users with their chosen travel agents, if they have signed up to use the service which usually comes with a fee paid by subscribing agents that Amadeus omits to explain in its promotional releases.
Based on content delivered through Amadeus’ search expertise, the bot, named @flightbot, will be initially piloted in Thailand, where Amadeus will be testing it on Thai travel agencies.
It will also be offered directly to travellers served by travel agents subscribing to the pilot service. Once it is running smoothly it will roll out in other markets across the Asia Pacific region.
The test is based on the belief that in the airfare ticketing market travel agents still have a role to play. However, mobile technology is disrupting the traditional booking channel allowing consumers to book and pay for their fares online through a variety of booking sites, outside of the travel agency framework.
Designed to mimic human conversation, @flightbot is a user-friendly platform that helps travel agents keep up with travellers’ demands for information and options in real-time. Users on LINE can search for and befriend @flightbot via the messaging platform, chat privately with the bot and receive assistance for any flight-related queries.
Throughout the test period, the bot will address queries related to air travel bookings, departure city and destination, and flights with the best prices, in either English or Thai.
Amadeus does not provide any channel for travellers, or media, to test the service’s content or verify the claims it makes for the product.
It claims the AI-powered service will also provide travel agents with a secure and streamlined transaction process, where travellers can complete payment via the @flightbot chat. The least it could do would be to offer a demo and illustrate in real-time its practical features.
In the meantime, travellers can also achieve the same result by booking through popular flight comparison sites that offer secure payment and usually the fares are lower than offered by travel agents.
Having a remote conversation with a bot in travel agency channel could be considered a duplication without any credible benefit emerging for the customer, who is familiar with services such as Ctrip’s Skyscanner.
“Connecting with travelers in a timely and intuitive manner is important in today’s increasingly connected and automated world,” said Amadeus Asia Pacific vice president, corporate strategy and business development, Simon Akeroyd. “With the new 24/7 bot on LINE, travellers using @flightbot will gain direct access to Amadeus’ global content and technology via Amadeus-connected travel agencies with just the touch of a button, including a wide range of available flights and options to choose from. This makes it easy and convenient for travellers to search and purchase flights whenever inspiration for travel strikes.
However, success will depend on whether the fares the bot flags are competitive and meet the traveller’s requirement. It will also depend on convenience, speed, the ability to compare and the ease of payment as well as the reliability of the travel company that delivers the booking.
Thailand is one of the top three countries in the region using LINE, with an estimated 33 million users who mainly use if for social chat and free calls.