Cheapflights brings smart flight search to 800 million Facebook users worldwideCheapflights, the global flight search and travel deals search engine, is today launching Cheapflights Chat, an interactive bot utilising Facebook’s new Chat SDK. The proprietary technology will enable the social network’s massive global community to use its popular Messenger platform to search for flights and other travel-related information, before linking them to the Cheapflights website where they can continue to search or move off on to the next stage of the booking process.
Cheapflights Chat can be accessed via Facebook Messenger, or via http://m.me/cheapflights
Launching initially in Beta, the core flight and, for the first time, integrated hotel search functionality will be joined by a weather API, currency exchange and emoji search by the end of June.
Cheapflights has combined a whole suite of APIs with the new Facebook Messenger API and their clever AI for parsing natural language. This way Cheapflights Chat can understand the users' intention even when they send a longer message like “Get me a cheap flight to Paris leaving next week returning 5th of August.” Once the message is split and keywords labeled, requests are made to different APIs to gather the required data: the Momondo Group in-house search API for flights; that of its hotel search partner for the best accommodation deals and availability data; Forecast.io’s API to see where’s hot at the moment; and Google’s Geocoding API to accurately place any location on the map and find the closest airports – all in a matter of seconds.
As well as speed, the technology has been uniquely curated to offer a human response, which embraces the Cheapflights brand personality. Whether users are a fan of ‘dropping the f-bomb’ (or worse) or a fan of a ‘winter-is-coming--sword-fighting-like’ series, the bot has an answer for them. If they’re a fan of another flight search competitor, well, then not so much.
To talk to Cheapflights Chat, users simply open a Messenger chat to Cheapflights and start a conversation. They are then prompted to say where they'd like to fly and they’ll be shown the cheapest average flights available from 1000s of airlines, OTAs and travel partners worldwide.
• Users can search for the average cheapest returning flights in the near future, or search one-way or return flights for specific dates, directly in Messenger
• There’s also an “Inspire Me!” function for users who are just browsing for travel ideas, which shows average cheapest return flight prices to great destinations the user may not have considered.
• Once a flight search is completed, users can then search for a hotel, with the results covering top hotels within their stated budget.
Messenger was the fastest growing mobile app of 2015, according to Nielsen, and the second most popular iOS app behind Facebook itself. At the F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco in April, Facebook released a range of tools for developers to build bots inside Facebook Messenger with a range of new functions to help businesses interact with their customers, kick-starting what has been called ‘The Great Bot Rush’.
Commenting on the launch of the product, Andrew Shelton, Cheapflights’ Managing Director said: “Sixty three per cent of our traffic now comes from mobile, and 54 per cent of our revenue. It’s a big growth priority for us, so we should absolutely be jumping on any new opportunities that present themselves to engage with our users through that channel.
• Unlike others, our bot is specifically designed with both the Messenger platform, and users of it – and their needs – in mind. They can talk to us in the same way they'd talk to friends in Messenger, and will receive ‘human’ replies. For example, as well as straightforward flight search, they will soon be able to ask Cheapflights Chat questions about travel like 'Where's hot right now?' and it will suggest some flights to a destination where the weather is warm. Or 'What is the currency in Thailand?', 'What's £5.50 in Euros?' and they’ll receive an accurate conversion in reply. They’ll even be able to use emoji, just like they might do when in Messenger talking to friends.
“We’ve embraced this as a chance to be among the first to utilise a compelling new technology and engage with our consumers in an environment where they’re comfortable, and in a human way that actually brings chat to flight search. We’re taking another step towards frictionless dialogue with our users, and we’re looking forward to seeing how we can further develop this way of interacting with them in the months ahead.” Cheapflights has worked with Copenhagen-based digital agency UncleGrey in the development of the technology.