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Last week we introduced you to KLM's new Messenger bot. The bot will send your itinerary, check-in confirmation, boarding pass, and flight notifications direct to a conversation thread in Messenger, storing all your flight information in one place. It appears, however, that KLM is not the only company in the travel industry releasing a Messenger bot into the world.
In the ten weeks since Facebook unveiled the new platform, there have been bots from a host of online travel agencies and booking websites, and it's beginning to look like 2016 will be the year chat takes over in the online booking space.
SkyScanner led the charge in May with a bot that can fetch prices and itineraries through the messenger app, using natural-language text messages to refine and display results in a conversation thread. You can also prompt the bot for suggestions using simple phrases like ‘search everywhere,' and after settling on a particular itinerary, you are redirected to a link to SkyScanner.com to complete your booking.
Similar bots followed from Expedia and Hipmunk, and, more recently, CheapFlights released a bot that can search for both hotels and flights adding to the functionality available. The latest addition to the travel bot family comes from Kayak, who has raised the bar significantly.
Adding to the already available flight and hotel search, Kayak has added the ability to search for both rental cars and activities in your chosen destination and trip updates using the data from your Kayak account.
Even cooler is that you can book directly from the Messenger app (using the in-app browser) without being redirected to an external application, keeping the entire process within the Messenger ecosystem, it's a smart piece of technology.
We go beyond search to bring you everything from Trips updates to enabling you to book your travel within Messenger. It can also give you ideas on where you can go within your budget, show you when’s the best time to travel to hotspots you have in mind and will keep you up-to-date on your travel plans with status alerts and summary cards — all from the comfort of Messenger.
While the technology is still in its infancy at this stage, it will get smarter over time as it communicates with more people.
Try Out the Kayak Bot
If you want to jump in and give it a try, follow the steps below from Kayak's website.
- Start. Open Facebook Messenger. Open a new message. Put KAYAK in the “to” field and off we go.
- Plan. Start by messaging us with your travel plans (e.g. flights to Boston tomorrow, hotels in Rome tonight, cars in New York City on July 4, things to do in Austin). After a few questions, we’ll search hundreds of other travel sites at once for the info you need. Then, we’ll message back with a summary of your results or curated suggestions
- Filter. You can further narrow your search by giving us more information about your preferences like “non-stop only,” “no XYZ Airline” or “only 5-star hotels.”
- Explore. Not sure where to go? If you’re looking for some inspiration, just ask the bot “where can I go for $300” (or whatever amount you choose) and we’ll give you available options within that budget.
- Book. After looking through our suggestions, when you find an option you like, just click “Book.” You will be sent directly to our provider’s booking page.
- Manage. For users with a KAYAK account, link your account to Facebook via your KAYAK Trips settings. Linking will allow you to receive real-time notifications for gate changes, flight delays or check-in status in Messenger. You can also access your bookings and other details for your Trips through Messenger.
The Kayak bot is a big step forward in how we will interact with technology to put itineraries together in the future. Although the bot is relatively easy to trip up if your question is formatted poorly, overall I enjoyed it more than fiddling around on the website using the search engine.
It was intuitive on both mobile and desktop, and with a little practice, I was receiving similar results to the best I could find inside Google Flights. I think the hardest thing for an information geek like myself is not having all the information right in front of me and trusting that Kayak is doing its job properly. With the limited screen real estate on Messenger, results are lumped together into cheapest flights, shortest route, non-stop, etc. It's no ITA Matrix.
What are your thoughts on the new Messenger platform? Has anyone booked through the new Kayak Messenger bot yet? Let us know in the comments.
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