Lufthansa is the latest airline to launch a chatbot.
Called Mildred, the chatbot searches for the cheapest flights within the next nine months.
With Mildred, passengers can search by date and booking class and add details such as the full name of their departure and arrival airports.
Mildred knows the nearest airport Lufthansa flies from and can find the cheapest prices for an outbound flight with a return flight seven days later.
Passengers who want to make a booking are directed to the Lufthansa mobile website.
How it works
Mildred already has many different possible request wordings but in practice many more word combinations are used. So she has to learn many more.
Mildred uses natural language processing (NLP) via Wit.ai, to understand English and German and recognise place names and dates.
The NLP translates the written questions into machine-readable code.
The chatbot uses two interfaces (API):
- to the “Lufthansa Nearest Airport” database, which also stores the international three-letter codes, such as FRA for Frankfurt
- to Google’s Geolocation whose database recognises numerous tourist attractions as well as place names. If the user specifies the Eiffel Tower, for example, the flight destination is recognised as Paris.
On the basis of this information, Mildred then asks the Lufthansa “Best Price” database for the cheapest price for the requested connection.
The “Best Price” search is available to iPhone and Android users via the free Facebook Messenger app. Passengers can enter “Lufthansa Best Price” into the search window to start the dialogue.
To test Mildred on a desktop device, passengers enter mildred.lh.com in the browser window.
In both cases passengers need a Facebook account.
Other airline chatbots
Mildred is in beta with Lufthansa using a test and learn strategy for the service as users use different terminology to make flight queries as well as combine words differently.
Other airlines using or trialling chatbots include:
- Austrian Airlines
Austrian Airlines myAustrian Messenger Service answers questions on flight status, baggage and service, such as lounge access. It also helps passengers to search for Austrian Airlines flights and offers travel ideas on request.
Icelandair introduced a new service in August 2016 that allows passengers to search and book a flight with Icelandair directly through Facebook Messenger.
KLM introduced a chatbot test in September 2016 to help answer customer questions.
In March 20, KLM launched a Facebook Messenger service for passengers, providing booking and check-in confirmation, boarding pass and flight status updates.
N.B. Image credit: Lufthansa